People v. Timmsen, No. 3–12–0481.

CourtUnited States Appellate Court of Illinois
Writing for the CourtJustice O'BRIEN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.
Citation14 N.E.3d 1267
PartiesThe PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Plaintiff–Appellee, v. Jacob D. TIMMSEN, Defendant–Appellant.
Decision Date25 July 2014
Docket NumberNo. 3–12–0481.

14 N.E.3d 1267

The PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Plaintiff–Appellee
v.
Jacob D. TIMMSEN, Defendant–Appellant.

No. 3–12–0481.

Appellate Court of Illinois, Third District.

July 25, 2014.


14 N.E.3d 1268

Thomas A. Karalis (argued), of State Appellate Defender's Office, of Ottawa, for appellant.

Jim Drozdz, State's Attorney, of Carthage (Justin A. Nicolosi (argued), of State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor's Office, of counsel), for the People.

OPINION

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

¶ 1 The defendant, Jacob Timmsen, was convicted after a stipulated bench trial of driving while his license was suspended and sentenced to two years' conditional discharge and 90 days in the county jail. The defendant appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress evidence. We reverse.

¶ 2 FACTS

¶ 3 The defendant was stopped by police after making a U-turn before a roadside safety check (also referred to by the parties as a roadblock or a checkpoint). The defendant filed a motion to suppress the evidence obtained as a result of the traffic stop, arguing that the sheriff's deputy lacked any cause to conduct the stop.

¶ 4 At the suppression hearing, the defendant testified that he was driving eastbound on U.S. Highway 136 at 1:15 am on December 17, 2011, from Iowa to Illinois. He saw a police roadblock ahead of him, and he made a U-turn at a railroad crossing. The railroad crossing was the only place to make a U-turn on the four-lane road; the defendant signaled his turn, turned through the gap in the concrete divider, and proceeded back onto westbound Highway 136.

¶ 5 Illinois State Police Officer Heath Miller testified that he was a working a roadside safety check on Highway 136, about 50 feet from the railroad crossing. Miller testified that the railroad crossing was the only place before the roadblock that was not barricaded where a driver could turn around and go the other direction. Miller testified that the crossing could not be barricaded because it was used by trains. Miller heard a vehicle approaching the roadside safety check

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from the west, but noticed that the vehicle never reached the checkpoint. Deputy Travis Duffy stopped the defendant after he had made the U-turn and was travelling westbound on Highway 136. The defendant was arrested for driving while his license was suspended, in violation of section 6–303(a) of the Illinois Vehicle Code (the Code) (625 ILCS 5/6–303(a) (West 2010)) and he was also issued a citation for a violation of section 11–706(a) of the Code (625 ILCS 5/11–706(a) (West 2010)), driving left of center at a railroad crossing.

¶ 6 The trial court denied the motion to suppress, finding that the defendant's act of turning around on railroad tracks approximately 50 feet prior to entering the roadside safety check provided reasonable articulable suspicion that there was criminal activity to justify the stop.

¶ 7 Following the denial of the motion to suppress, the parties agreed to a stipulated bench trial on the license charge. The State did not proceed on the charge of driving left of center at a railroad crossing. The trial court found the defendant guilty of driving while his license was suspended. Defendant was sentenced to 24 months' conditional discharge, with conditions including fines and fees and 90 days in the county jail. The defendant appealed.

¶ 8 ANALYSIS

¶ 9 A stipulated bench trial allows the parties to proceed with the benefit and convenience of a guilty plea procedure, but avoids the waiver rule, so the stipulated bench trial allows the defendant to preserve the suppression issue. People v. Scott, 277 Ill.App.3d 579, 214 Ill.Dec. 110, 660 N.E.2d 555 (1996). In reviewing a trial court's ruling on a motion to suppress evidence, we apply a two-part standard wherein factual findings are reviewed for clear error and will be reversed only if they are against the manifest weight of the evidence, but the ultimate legal ruling is reviewed de novo. People v. Luedemann, 222 Ill.2d 530, 542–43, 306 Ill.Dec. 94, 857 N.E.2d 187 (2006).

¶ 10 The defendant argues that he did not violate any traffic laws, and the act of driving to avoid a safety checkpoint, by itself, could not give police articulable suspicion to conduct a traffic stop. Initially, the State argued that the traffic stop was lawful because the defendant committed a traffic violation in his attempt to avoid the roadblock. However, at oral argument, the State conceded that the defendant did not commit a traffic violation. Instead, the State argued that the defendant's attempt to avoid the roadblock gave the police articulable suspicion to conduct the stop.

¶ 11 It is well established that a vehicle stop at a highway checkpoint is a seizure within the meaning of the fourth amendment. City of Indianapolis v. Edmond, 531 U.S. 32, 40, 121 S.Ct. 447, 148 L.Ed.2d 333 (2000). In the balance between personal liberty and the government interest in safety, such checkpoints are judged by a standard of reasonableness and are generally allowed if the intrusion is limited and does not involve an unconstrained exercise of discretion. People v. Long, 124 Ill.App.3d 1030, 1033–34, 80 Ill.Dec. 332, 465 N.E.2d 123 (1984). There was no suggestion in this case that the checkpoint was unreasonable. Thus, if the defendant had chosen to proceed through the checkpoint, he would have been subject to the stop. Also, if the defendant had stopped his car, and parked at the railroad tracks 50 feet from the checkpoint, it is likely that he would have been subject to the stop because he was within the realm of the checkpoint. People v. Long, 124 Ill.App.3d 1030, 80 Ill.Dec. 332, 465 N.E.2d 123 (1984) (stopping 100 yards from a checkpoint was within its realm and the police could ask the defendant to produce

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his driver's license). The defendant in this case did not stop, and he did not proceed through the checkpoint. He was stopped by the police after he executed a legal U-turn and was travelling away from the checkpoint. See 625 ILCS 5/11–802 (West 2010) (U-turns are legal in Illinois, as long as the turn can be made safely and without interfering with other traffic).

¶ 12 A police officer is entitled to briefly stop a person to investigate if, given the totality of the circumstances, the officer has specific, articulable facts, taken together with rational inferences from the facts, that warrant the intrusion. Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 21, 88 S.Ct. 1868, 20 L.Ed.2d 889 (1968) ; People v. Ray, 327 Ill.App.3d 904, 261 Ill.Dec. 882, 764 N.E.2d 173 (2002). The officer's basis for the stop must be objectively reasonable, and not based on inarticulate or unsubstantiated suspicions that criminal activity is afoot. Ray, 327 Ill.App.3d at 909–10, 261 Ill.Dec. 882, 764 N.E.2d 173 (citing Terry, 392 U.S. at 21–22, 88 S.Ct. 1868 ). Since the defendant did not subject himself to the roadblock, and he committed no traffic violations in doing so, the question is whether the defendant's act of turning to avoid the roadblock, without more, was sufficient to give the police officers reasonable suspicion to stop the defendant.

¶ 13 As we noted in People v. Scott, “[w]here a motorist acts to avoid a roadblock, such action may itself constitute reasonable suspicion that a criminal offense has been or is about to be committed, thus justifying a stop of the vehicle.” People v. Scott, 277 Ill.App.3d 579, 584, 214 Ill.Dec. 110, 660 N.E.2d 555 (1996) (citing State v. Binion, 900 S.W.2d 702, 705 (Tenn.Crim.App.1994) and 4 Wayne R. LaFave, Search and Seizure § 10.8(a), at 681 (3d ed.1996) ). We cited three examples of where actions taken to avoid a roadblock may justify a stop: (1) when a vehicle fails to stop at the roadblock; (2) when a vehicle stops just before the roadblock and the driver and passenger change places; or (3) when a vehicle avoids the roadblock in a suspicious manner. Scott, 277 Ill.App.3d at 584, 214 Ill.Dec. 110, 660 N.E.2d 555 (citing 4 Wayne R. LaFave, Search and Seizure § 10.8(a), at 681–82 (3d ed.1996) ). However, as we clarified in Scott, the mere act of avoiding a roadblock is generally not sufficient to constitute reasonable suspicion by itself, and must be coupled with other articulable facts. Scott, 277 Ill.App.3d at 584, 214 Ill.Dec. 110, 660 N.E.2d 555. In finding that a legal turn at an intersection just prior to a roadblock did not give police reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, we found the reasoning of Murphy v. Commonwealth, 9 Va.App. 139, 384 S.E.2d 125 (1989), to be persuasive. Scott, 277 Ill.App.3d at 584, 214 Ill.Dec. 110, 660 N.E.2d 555. Murphy held that it could not sanction a result where every motorist who turned in sight of a roadblock, for whatever legitimate reason, would be subject to an investigative detention. Scott, 277 Ill.App.3d at 584, 214 Ill.Dec. 110, 660 N.E.2d 555 (citing Murphy, 384 S.E.2d at 129 ).

¶ 14 Other articulable facts, when considered in light of avoiding police contact, may include “[h]eadlong flight” upon noticing police, in an area of heavy narcotics trafficking. See Illinois v. Wardlow, 528 U.S. 119, 124–25, 120 S.Ct. 673, 145 L.Ed.2d 570 (2000) ; but cf. Ray, 327 Ill.App.3d at 910, 261 Ill.Dec. 882, 764 N.E.2d 173 (in an...

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1 practice notes
  • People v. Timmsen, No. 118181.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Illinois
    • March 24, 2016
    ...conviction, concluding that defendant's motion to suppress should have been granted. 2014 IL App (3d) 120481, 383 Ill.Dec. 656, 14 N.E.3d 1267. We allowed the State's petition for leave to appeal (Ill. S.Ct. R. 315 (eff. Jan. 1, 2015); R. 612(b) (eff. Feb. 6, 2013)). For the following reaso......
1 cases
  • People v. Timmsen, No. 118181.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Illinois
    • March 24, 2016
    ...conviction, concluding that defendant's motion to suppress should have been granted. 2014 IL App (3d) 120481, 383 Ill.Dec. 656, 14 N.E.3d 1267. We allowed the State's petition for leave to appeal (Ill. S.Ct. R. 315 (eff. Jan. 1, 2015); R. 612(b) (eff. Feb. 6, 2013)). For the following reaso......

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