The People Of The State Of Ill. v. Close, Docket No. 108459

Decision Date21 October 2010
Docket NumberDocket No. 108459
CourtSupreme Court of Illinois
PartiesTHE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Appellee, v. MARCA. CLOSE, Appellant.

CHIEF JUSTICE FITZGERALD delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

Justices Freeman, Thomas, Kilbride, Garman, and Karmeier concurred in the judgment and opinion.

Justice Burke dissented, with opinion.

OPINION

Defendant, Marc A. Close, was charged by indictment with one count of felony driving while license revoked (625 ILCS 5/6-303(d) (West 2006)). The circuit court of La Salle County granted defendant's motion to quash arrest and suppress evidence, finding the stop of defendant's vehicle was unlawful because the officer had no reasonable, articulable suspicion that defendant was driving outside the terms of his restricted driving permit (RDP). The appellate court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. 389 Ill. App. 3d 228.

For the reasons stated below, we affirm the judgment of the appellate court.

BACKGROUND

On August 7, 2007, defendant was indicted by a La Salle County grand jury on one count of felony driving while license revoked. The indictment alleged that on June 24, 2007, defendant knowingly drove a 1987 Chevrolet vehicle upon a public highway in LaSalle, Illinois, at a time when his license was revoked, and that the basis for the revocation was a conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol. The indictment also alleged that defendant previously had been convicted of the offense of driving while license revoked, and that the basis for that revocation was also a conviction for driving while under the influence of alcohol. See 625 ILCS 5/11-501 (West 2006).

Defendant filed a motion to quash his arrest and suppress evidence. At the hearing, Officer Thomas Belski of the LaSalle police department testified that on Sunday, June 24, 2007, at 7:13 p.m. he was on routine patrol. He ran a registration check of a 1987 Chevrolet pickup on his mobile computer, which disclosed that the license of the registered owner, defendant, had been revoked. The computer also disclosed that the owner had been issued an RDP, but did not disclose the terms of the RDP. Belski testified that the person driving the pickup truck strongly resembled the photograph of the owner that he was able to pull up on his computer. Belski stopped the vehicle, asked defendant if he was aware his license was revoked, and subsequently arrested defendant for driving while license revoked. Prior to the stop, Belski did not observe defendant commit any traffic violation.

Defense counsel asked Belski, "The reason that you stopped the vehicle [was] because you had a hunch that he [defendant] was not driving within the periods of his restricted driving permit, isn't that correct?" Belski answered, "Yes, I did." Belski later explained that based on his experience, an RDP is typically issued for work or hardship, and prior to stopping defendant, he took into account the day of the week-Sunday; the time of day-7:13 p.m.; and defendant's clothing-a tank top, baseball cap, and sunglasses.

Relying on People v. Johnson, 379 Ill. App. 3d 710 (2008), defendant argued that Officer Belski's hunch that defendant was driving outside the parameters of his RDP did not provide an adequate basis for the vehicle stop. The trial court agreed and granted defendant's motion to suppress. The State subsequently filed a certificate of substantial impairment and notice of appeal. See 210 Ill. 2d R. 604(a)(1); People v. Young, 82 Ill. 2d 234, 247 (1980).

The appellate court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. 389 Ill. App. 3d at 234. The majority expressly declined to follow Johnson and held that "the mere existence of an RDP does not extinguish an officer's reasonable and articulable basis to believe the officer has witnessed a revoked driver traveling on a highway of this state, in violation of the provisions of the Vehicle Code." 389 Ill. App. 3d at 233. The appellate court reasoned that the language of section 6-303 of the Illinois Vehicle Code, which establishes the offense of driving while license revoked, demonstrates that the issuance of an RDP is a statutory defense and not an additional element that the State is required to prove. 389 Ill. App. 3d at 232-33. Accordingly, "an officer is not required to determine or verify the scope of the restricted driving permit before performing a traffic stop when a reasonable articulable basis exists to believe the license of the person behind the wheel is revoked." (Emphasis in original.) 389 Ill. App. 3d at 233.1 The dissentingjustice would have followed Johnson, stating that "in order to effectuate a valid traffic stop, *** an officer must have a reasonable articulable suspicion that the driver is operating the vehicle outside the terms of his/her RDP." 389 Ill. App. 3d at 237 (McDade, J., dissenting).

We allowed defendant's petition for leave to appeal. 210 Ill. 2d R. 315.

ANALYSIS
Scope of Review

Before considering the propriety of the suppression order, we address an argument defendant raised in his reply brief concerning the scope of our review. As noted above, underlying the appellate court's opinion was its analysis of section 6-303 of the Illinois Vehicle Code (625 ILCS 5/6-303 (West 2006)). Defendant contends that the parties never raised a statutory construction issue involving section 6-303 and that the appellate court erred by raising this issue sua sponte. See People v. Hunt, 234 Ill. 2d 49, 56 (2009) (appellate court's sua sponte consideration of issues not considered by the trial court and never argued by the parties constituted error). Defendant further argues that because the theory under which a case is tried cannot be changed on review (Hunt, 234 Ill. 2d at 56), the State cannot raise before this court an issue improperly considered by the appellate court. For these reasons, defendant contends that we should not consider the meaning of section 6-303. We disagree.

In the trial court, the State argued, inter alia, that the vehicle stop was lawful, despite the existence of the RDP. On appeal, the State developed this argument, maintaining that the statutory scheme governing the issuance of RDPs places the burden on the revoked driver to produce the RDP issued to him, but does not dissipate the officer's reasonable articulable suspicion that the license of the driver has been revoked. The appellate court agreed with the State when it concluded that "the mere existence of an RDP does not extinguish an officer's reasonable and articulable basis to believe the officer has witnessed a revoked driver traveling on a highway of this state." 389 Ill. App. 3d at 233. Though the appellate court relied on section 6-303, a section of the Illinois Vehicle Code to which the State did not expressly refer in its appellate brief, section 6-303 is part and parcel of the RDP statutory scheme on which the State generally relied. Moreover, section 6-3 03 defines the offense at the heart of this case-driving while license revoked-and any holding in this case must be consistent with the statute. Thus, the appellate court did not err in considering this section of the Illinois Vehicle Code and the statutory construction issue, which the parties have fully briefed, is properly before us.

Motion to Suppress

When reviewing a trial court's ruling on a motion to suppress, we will accord great deference to the trial court's factual findings and will reverse those findings only if they are against the manifest weight of the evidence; but we will review de novo the court's ultimate decision to grant or deny the motion. People v. Richardson, 234 Ill. 2d 233, 251 (2009); People v. Sutherland, 223 Ill. 2d 187, 196-97 (2006). Defendant here does not challenge Officer Belski's testimony regarding the circumstances leading up to the vehicle stop. Where no dispute exists as to the underlying facts, our task is to determine the legal effect of those facts, i.e., whether the trial court's ultimate ruling that suppression was warranted was correct. Accordingly, our review proceeds de novo. People v. Bunch, 207 Ill. 2d 7, 13 (2003). To the extent disposition of this case turns on our review of the appellate court's construction of section 6-303 of the Illinois Vehicle Code (625 ILCS 5/6-303 (West 2006)), review of that issue also proceeds de novo. People v. Jones, 214 Ill. 2d 187, 193 (2005).

The law is settled that a vehicle stop constitutes a "seizure" of "persons" within the meaning of the fourth amendment. Brendlin v. California, 551 U.S. 249, 255, 168 L. Ed. 2d 132, 138-39, 127 S. Ct. 2400, 2406 (2007); Bunch, 207 Ill. 2d at 13. Accordingly, vehicle stops are subject to the fourth amendment's reasonableness requirement (Whren v. United States, 517 U.S. 806, 810, 135 L. Ed. 2d 89, 95, 116 S. Ct. 1769, 1772 (1996)), which we analyze under the principles set forth in Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 20 L. Ed. 2d 889, 88 S. Ct. 1868 (1968) (People v. Cosby, 231 Ill. 2d 262, 274 (2008); People v. Moss, 217 Ill. 2d 511, 526 (2005)). Under Terry, a police officer may conduct a brief, investigatory stop of a person where the officer reasonably believes that the person has committed, or is about to, commit a crime. Terry, 392 U.S. at 22, 20 L. Ed. 2d at 906-07, 88 S. Ct. at 1880; People v. Gherna, 203 Ill. 2d 165, 177 (2003); People v. Thomas, 198 Ill. 2d 103, 109 (2001).

The investigatory stop must be justified at its inception. Terry, 392 U.S. at 19-20, 20 L. Ed. 2d at 905, 88 S. Ct. at 1879. "[T]he police officer must be able to point to specific and articulable facts which, taken together with rational inferences from those facts, reasonably warrant that intrusion." Terry, 392 U.S. at 21, 20 L. Ed. 2d at 906, 88 S. Ct. at 1880. The officer's suspicion must amount to more than aninarticulate hunch (Terry, 392 U.S. at 22, 20 L. Ed. 2d at 906, 88 S. Ct. at 1880; Gherna, 203 Ill. 2d at 177), but need not rise to the level of suspicion required for probable cause (United...

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