People v. Harris

Decision Date23 February 2022
Docket NumberAppeal No. 3-20-0234
Citation2022 IL App (3d) 200234,193 N.E.3d 1285,456 Ill.Dec. 877
Parties The PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Thomas Mose HARRIS, Defendant-Appellant.
CourtUnited States Appellate Court of Illinois

James E. Chadd, Thomas A. Karalis, and Drew Charles Parsons, of State Appellate Defender's Office, of Ottawa, for appellant.

Jodi Hoos, State's Attorney, of Peoria (Patrick Delfino and Thomas D. Arado, of State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor's Office, of counsel), for the People.

PRESIDING JUSTICE O'BRIEN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

¶ 1 The defendant, Thomas Mose Harris, appealed his conviction for unlawful use of a weapon by a felon.


¶ 3 The defendant was indicted on January 2, 2018, on charges of unlawful possession of a weapon by a felon ( 720 ILCS 5/24-1.1(a) (West 2018)) and battery (id. § 12-3(a)(1)). Defense counsel filed a motion to quash the defendant's arrest and suppress all evidence arising from that arrest, alleging that there was no probable cause to stop and detain the defendant.

¶ 4 At the suppression hearing, evidence was presented that a female victim was reportedly put in a headlock and hit by a heavyset black male behind a liquor store on December 7, 2017. Officers from the City of Peoria Police Department responded to the liquor store, which had a video camera that recorded the incident. The police viewed the video recording, obtaining a description of the perpetrator and his vehicle. The temporary tag number on the vehicle appeared to be 585T515. Joseph Smiles, a City of Peoria police officer, testified that he was on his way to work a few days later, on December 13, 2017, when he observed a silver Chevy Tahoe that matched the description of the vehicle at the liquor store, but with a temporary registration of 575T815. Smiles observed the driver to be a heavyset black male with a short beard, who appeared to be the same male as in the liquor store video. Smiles did not stop the vehicle at that time, but proceeded to work, where he identified the owner of the vehicle as the defendant, viewed a prior booking photograph of the defendant, and reviewed the surveillance video from the liquor store. Smiles determined that the defendant was the male individual in the liquor store video. Smiles contacted Peoria police officer Jonathan Irving, who was on patrol with a new recruit, Officer Kerry, in the area of one of the two addresses on record for the defendant. Smiles advised Irving and Kerry that the defendant was a suspect in a battery and that there was probable cause to arrest the defendant for the battery. Smiles directed Irving and Kerry to go to one of the addresses to look for the defendant and the Tahoe, and Smiles proceeded to the other address.

¶ 5 Irving testified that he was contacted via car-to-car messenger, also known as an investigative alert, by Smiles with an arrest message regarding the defendant. In the alert, Smiles provided Irving with the description of the vehicle, the license plate (575T815), and the address, and Smiles requested that Irving patrol by that location. Irving did not know the defendant and did not observe the defendant engaging in any obvious criminal behavior. Irving did locate the vehicle, with the defendant inside, and Irving and Kerry approached the vehicle. The officers confirmed that the defendant was the person identified by Smiles and proceeded to arrest the defendant pursuant to Smiles's arrest message. The defendant was taken into custody, and a loaded gun was found on his person during a pat-down search.

¶ 6 After being indicted, the defendant brought a motion to quash the arrest and suppress all evidence arising from the arrest. The trial court denied the motion to suppress, concluding that Irving and Kerry had probable cause to arrest the defendant based upon the information in the investigative alert provided to them by Smiles. Defense counsel then filed a supplemental motion to suppress, arguing that arresting the defendant based on an investigative alert was contrary to the Illinois Constitution and People v. Bass , 2019 IL App (1st) 160640, 437 Ill.Dec. 430, 144 N.E.3d 542, aff'd in part, vacated in part , 2021 IL 125434, 450 Ill.Dec. 902, 182 N.E.3d 714. The trial court denied the supplemental motion, declining to follow Bass . The trial court found that Bass was distinguishable because, contrary to the couple of weeks delay between the investigative alert and the arrest in Bass , this case indicated a "fast[-]acting field response."

¶ 7 The defendant waived his right to a trial by jury, and the matter proceeded to a stipulated bench trial on the charge of unlawful possession of a weapon by a felon. The State dismissed the battery charge. The trial court found that the stipulated evidence was sufficient to prove the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of unlawful possession of a weapon by a felon. The defendant's posttrial motion was denied, and he was sentenced to 3½ years in prison. The defendant appealed.


¶ 9 The defendant argues that the trial court erred in denying his motion to quash and suppress. The defendant contends that there was no reasonable grounds, exigent circumstances, or good faith to support the arrest and the search of the defendant absent an arrest warrant. Also, the defendant argues that the Peoria Police Department's use of an investigative alert violates separation of powers. The State contends that the trial court properly denied the motion to suppress and that the use of investigative alerts is proper.

¶ 10 The state and federal constitutions both protect individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures. U.S. Const., amend. IV ; Ill. Const. 1970, art. I, § 6. "An arrest without probable cause or a warrant based thereon violates these constitutional provisions." People v. Lee , 214 Ill. 2d 476, 484, 293 Ill.Dec. 267, 828 N.E.2d 237 (2005). The police may make an arrest without a warrant when the officer "has reasonable grounds to believe that the person is committing or has committed an offense." 725 ILCS 5/107-2(1)(c) (West 2018); People v. Hardimon , 2021 IL App (3d) 180578, ¶ 39, 455 Ill.Dec. 261, 191 N.E.3d 568. In the context of a warrantless arrest, " ‘reasonable grounds’ " has the same meaning as " ‘probable cause.’ " People v. Jackson , 2014 IL App (3d) 120239, ¶ 85, 387 Ill.Dec. 481, 22 N.E.3d 526 (quoting Lee , 214 Ill. 2d at 484, 293 Ill.Dec. 267, 828 N.E.2d 237 ).

¶ 11 The determination of whether police had probable cause to arrest is based on the officer's reasonable belief at the time of the arrest. Lee , 214 Ill. 2d at 484, 293 Ill.Dec. 267, 828 N.E.2d 237. The inquiry is, viewed through an objective lens, whether the facts known to the police presented a probability of criminal activity. Id. at 485, 293 Ill.Dec. 267, 828 N.E.2d 237. "Whether there is probable cause to believe that a defendant has committed a crime is based on an evaluation of all of the information available, including its source." Id. In reviewing a motion to suppress, we uphold factual findings unless th...

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