People v. Tisler, 58628

CourtSupreme Court of Illinois
Citation82 Ill.Dec. 613,103 Ill.2d 226,469 N.E.2d 147
Docket NumberNo. 58628,58628
Parties, 82 Ill.Dec. 613 The PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Appellant, v. Gregory TISLER, Appellee.
Decision Date20 September 1984

Page 147

469 N.E.2d 147
103 Ill.2d 226, 82 Ill.Dec. 613
The PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Appellant,
Gregory TISLER, Appellee.
No. 58628.
Supreme Court of Illinois.
Sept. 20, 1984.

Page 150

[103 Ill.2d 230] [82 Ill.Dec. 616] Neil F. Hartigan, Atty. Gen., Springfield, and Gary L. Peterlin, State's Atty., Ottawa (John X. Breslin and Vicki R. Wright, State's Attys. Appellate Service Com'n, Ottawa, of counsel), for the People.

Robert J. Agostinelli, Deputy State Appellate Defender, and Sue Augustus, Asst. State Appellate Defender, Ottawa, for appellee.

RYAN, Chief Justice:

At a bench trial in the circuit court of La Salle County, the parties stipulated that defendant, Gregory Tisler, had possessed less than 30 grams of LSD. This crime constituted a Class 4 felony under the Illinois Controlled Substances Act (Ill.Rev.Stat.1979, ch. 56 1/2, par. 1402(b)). Defendant was convicted and sentenced to 24 months' probation and one weekend in the La Salle County Correctional Center. In addition, defendant was [103 Ill.2d 231] fined $500 and ordered to pay costs of $120.

Before trial, defendant moved to suppress evidence that he claimed was obtained either through an illegal seizure or through a search incident to an illegal arrest. The trial court, after hearing testimony, denied the motions and allowed the evidence.

Defendant appealed, and the appellate court reversed the judgment without remand. Finding that defendant's arrest was without probable cause, the appellate court held that all evidence obtained as a result of the arrest must be suppressed. (114 Ill.App.3d 214, 216, 70 Ill.Dec. 116, 448 N.E.2d 994.) We allowed the State's petition for leave to appeal, which was filed pursuant to Supreme Court Rules 315(a) and 612(b). 87 Ill.2d Rules 315(a), 612(b).

Before this court, the State raises the issue whether the trial court properly denied defendant's motions to suppress evidence. We will address this question after a statement of the pertinent facts. Our disposition of this first issue renders it unnecessary to consider a second issue that the State raises in its brief.

James Hollenbeck, a police officer for the city of Marseilles, testified at the hearing on the motions to suppress. While off duty on Saturday, January 9, 1982, Hollenbeck received a telephone call at 2:30 p.m. from an informant. The caller identified himself, and the officer recognized him as an informant that he had dealt with before. The caller then related the following information: that at the time they were speaking, two Marseilles residents were on their way to Streator to pick up "some hits" of LSD. After they obtained the LSD, the two individuals--defendant Tisler and a friend, Jerry Cox--would return to Marseilles at 3:40 p.m., a little over an hour hence. They would be riding in Tisler's car, a green, two-door Chevrolet Camaro with the letters "JAT" on its license plates. After they entered Marseilles via the river bridge, Tisler and Cox would proceed [103 Ill.2d 232] north on Main Street to the Number Nine Game Room. There, they would deliver the LSD.

The informant also stated that the LSD would be in a very small container which easily could be disposed of if Hollenbeck were to detain Tisler and Cox with an ordinary traffic stop. Therefore, the informant advised, Hollenbeck should approach

Page 151

[82 Ill.Dec. 617] the subjects only after they had parked at the Game Room and were out of the car.

Hollenbeck had worked with this informant twice before, and the informant's tips had always been accurate. In one case, a single tip resulted in arrest and conviction. The other case involved the informant's supplying information at several times during a four- to six-week period. Again, the information led to an arrest and conviction. Tips supplied by this informant, however, had never been used by Hollenbeck or his police department to obtain a search or arrest warrant.

Certain aspects of the tip were familiar to Hollenbeck. He knew Tisler and Cox, and, to the best of his knowledge, Tisler was a Marseilles resident. He knew Tisler's car, recalling it as a lime green, two-door Chevrolet Camaro. He also knew that its full license plate number was JAT 76. Hollenbeck recognized the Number Nine Game Room as a Marseilles business that served as a hangout for local teenagers. Finally, he knew that several routes led from Streator to Marseilles, but that the road leading over the river bridge was the shortest, most direct route.

After the telephone call, Hollenbeck sought help in obtaining a warrant. Since it was Saturday, he knew that judges' offices were closed. In such a case, the La Salle County procedure was to contact an assistant State's Attorney and advise him of the facts on which the officer based his suspicions. If the assistant State's Attorney thought the facts would support a probable-cause finding, he would meet with the officer, draft a warrant, and [103 Ill.2d 233] contact a judge at home to request his signature. Although this procedure usually took from two to three hours, Hollenbeck attempted to contact the first assistant State's Attorney at home and at his office. Unsuccessful, he left a message for the attorney to call right away. After failing to reach another assistant State's Attorney at home, Hollenbeck proceeded without a warrant.

Hollenbeck and Officer Stevenson drove to South Main Street in Marseilles and parked where they could watch the river bridge. They wore street clothes and traveled in Hollenbeck's private car, an Oldsmobile with no police insignia or equipment. The winter weather that day was unusually severe: Hollenbeck testified that the temperature was 25 degrees below zero with a wind-chill factor of 60 degrees below zero. Snow fell, and area roads were becoming impassable.

At 3:45 p.m., the officers saw a green Chevrolet Camaro approach from the south, from the direction of the river bridge. The officers had not seen the car cross the bridge. On the Camaro's license plates was the number "JAT 76." Defendant was driving, Jerry Cox sat in front on the passenger side, and a third male, unknown to the officers, rode in the back seat.

Hollenbeck pulled in directly behind defendant's car and followed for about three blocks as defendant proceeded north on Main Street. When defendant parked across the street from the Number Nine Game Room, the officers left Hollenbeck's car and approached the Camaro.

Defendant stepped out of his car and Hollenbeck saw that his left hand was closed. What looked like a plastic bag extended from defendant's fist, but the officer could not see what its contents might be. While defendant stood between his car and its still open door, Hollenbeck asked him what he was holding. Defendant replied, [103 Ill.2d 234] "Nothing," so Hollenbeck inquired again, explaining to defendant that he could see something in his hand. At this point, defendant started to move his left hand around behind his back.

Hollenbeck then took defendant's left hand and removed a small plastic bag. It contained several pills, which the officer recognized as "dots." As Hollenbeck retrieved the plastic bag, he placed defendant under arrest. The officers then searched the area immediately surrounding defendant. After being patted down and handcuffed, defendant was taken to the police station in a squad car that waited nearby. Sometime after the arrest, a forensic scientist's

Page 152

[82 Ill.Dec. 618] report disclosed that the pills taken from defendant contained LSD.

Austin Tisler, defendant's father, also testified at the hearing on the motions to suppress. Mr. Tisler was familiar with the Number Nine Game Room. He described it as a pool room with game devices--a "soda fountain for teenagers." He was aware that defendant, his 17-year-old son Greg, frequented the Game Room. When asked how often his son visited the establishment, Mr. Tisler estimated that defendant stopped at the Game Room once a day.

Before proceeding, we note that the trial court viewed the police conduct in this case as a warrantless arrest accompanied by a search incident to arrest. We will treat the facts in the same manner. It follows, then, that the central issue is the legality of the warrantless arrest. If probable-cause requirements were met before the arrest, then evidence seized during the search incident to arrest was properly admitted at trial.

We now address whether the trial court correctly found that probable cause existed for defendant's arrest. While stressing the informant's past reliability, the State maintains that the tip in this case is sufficiently detailed to be self-verifying in nature. According to the State, the [103 Ill.2d 235] detailed tip, when considered in light of the officers' corroboration of the details, is sufficient to justify the trial court's finding of probable cause. Therefore, the State reasons, the LSD seized in the search incident to arrest was legally obtained and properly admitted into evidence. The State argues that the appellate court, which reversed and excluded the evidence, reached an incorrect result because it failed to consider either the self-verifying details or the subsequent corroboration.

Defendant, on the other hand, denies that the officers had probable cause for his arrest. Therefore, he argues, the police conduct violated his rights under the United States and Illinois constitutions. Defendant claims that, under these circumstances, the trial court should have excluded the LSD and other items seized at the time of the arrest. His theory is based on the informant's failure to explain how he learned the information that he related by telephone to Hollenbeck. Defendant explains that, for all Hollenbeck knew at the time of arrest, the tip was based on a casual rumor or even was wholly fabricated by someone who knew of defendant's routine visits to the Game Room. Given the absence of a statement from the informant assuring that he obtained his story...

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