People v. Dailey, 2018 IL App (1st) 152882 (September). Episode 539 (Duration 7:14)
One hand to hand creates reasonable suspicion for a traffic stop.
Defendant was charged by information with the offense of being an armed habitual criminal, possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, unlawful use or possession of a weapon by a felon, and possession of a controlled substance.
Prior to trial, defendant moved to quash his arrest and suppress evidence, alleging, in pertinent part, that police officers lacked probable cause to believe that defendant or anyone else in the vehicle had committed a crime “from within the vehicle.”
The trial court denied the motion and sentenced defendant to 30 months in prison.
One Hand-To Hand
A Chicago police officer and two other officers were driving southbound when he saw a van that was stopped in the middle of the street.
The officer watched a “male black citizen” run from the sidewalk to the driver’s side window, hand the van’s driver currency, and receive “small items” in return. The person who received the items looked in the officer’s direction and then fled in one direction, while the van went in the other direction “at kind of a high rate of speed.”
The Officer testified that he observed a “very quick exchange” of “small items” and could not determine what the items were or their consistency. Although he saw currency being given to the driver of the van, he could not determine the amount. The officer acknowledged that he did not see any movement inside the van; rather, he observed defendant stick an arm out of the van and hand over small items.
The officer, who had been a police officer for 20 years, believed that he had observed a narcotics transaction.
Stop The Van
The police followed the van and curbed it.
Defendant, then exited the van. He had not been ordered to exit the vehicle. As defendant walked toward the officer, he stated “ ‘I ain’t got shit.’ ” The officers exited their vehicle at the same time. As defendant continued to approach the officers, the officer observed a “marble-size object” drop from defendant’s right hand and fall to the ground. This was 1.3 grams and contained heroin.
The officer walked past defendant and picked up the object while another officer detained defendant. He described the object as a plastic bag that had seven smaller Ziploc Baggies containing suspect heroin. This item was subsequently inventoried.
After defendant was placed in custody, Carey informed him of the Miranda warnings. Defendant indicated that he understood his rights and then made a statement.
Defendant stated that his mother had just passed away and that he was trying to make some money to keep his buildings. Defendant further stated that he had “a drug case in the morning” and that his attorney told him to “do anything he could to stay out of trouble.”
Defendant also stated that he had “a gun by a garage” and asked whether the officers would let him go if he showed them the gun’s location. The police and his partners then followed defendant’s directions to a certain backyard. There, defendant indicated that a gun was inside a grill. The officer exited his vehicle, walked over, reached through the fence, and opened a grill. Inside the grill was a loaded .45-caliber gun.
During a subsequent conversation, defendant was asked why he had the handgun. He indicated that “the Nashes were mad that he was making money and he was afraid they were going to pop him off.”
We analyze the reasonableness of traffic stops pursuant to the principles set forth in Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968). Here, the parties agree that defendant was subjected to a Terry stop. “Pursuant to 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.” Timmsen, 2016 IL 118181, ¶ 9.
In order to justify a stop, “the officer must point to specific, articulable facts which, when considered with natural inferences, make the intrusion reasonable.” People v. Simpson, 2015 IL App (1st) 130303, ¶ 23. Under this reasonable suspicion standard, the facts necessary to justify a Terry stop do not need to rise to the level of probable cause and can be satisfied even if no violation of the law is observed, but the facts must go beyond a mere hunch. People v. Maxey, 2011 IL App (1st) 100011, ¶ 46. A police officer’s decision to conduct a Terry stop is a practical one based on the totality of the circumstances. In re Elijah W., 2017 IL App (1st) 162648, ¶ 36.
A reviewing court applies an objective standard when deciding “whether the facts available to the officer at the time of the incident would lead an individual of reasonable caution to believe that the action was appropriate.” People v. Colyar, 2013 IL 111835, ¶ 40.
Here, given the totality of the circumstances, the decision to stop the van that defendant was driving was proper under Terry. We therefore conclude that the trial court properly denied defendant’s motion to quash arrest and suppress statements.
There is no requirement that the officer know that the items were definitely contraband or that he assign an innocent explanation to the exchange. Rather, the question is whether the facts “available” to the police at the time would “lead an individual of reasonable caution to believe” that the stop was appropriate.
In the case at bar, there were “specific, articulable facts” upon which Carey relied to justify stopping defendant, that is, a van was stopped in the middle of the road, an exchange of money for small items took place, and the parties involved immediately went their separate ways. See Simpson, 2015 IL App (1st) 130303, ¶ 23 (although “the facts forming the basis of reasonable suspicion” do not require an officer to actually observe a crime, the determination of reasonable suspicion must be based on commonsense judgments about human behavior).
People v. Ocampo
In the case at bar, defendant’s van was not parked; rather, it was stopped in the middle of the street.
Moreover, unlike People v. Ocampo, 377 Ill. App. 3d 150 (2007), where the defendant got into a car and then proceeded to have a conversation with another person. The defendant walked up to the car, tapped on the trunk, and got in the front passenger seat. The driver and the passenger exchanged a look and had a short conversation, and the defendant moved as if he were taking something out of his pants pocket. The officer could not hear the conversation and did not see the defendant’s hands.
Here, a man ran up to the van, exchanged money for small objects, and then immediately ran away.
Additionally, unlike Ocampo, the officer actually observed the exchange.
People v. Petty
We are similarly unpersuaded by defendant’s reliance on People v. Petty, 2012 IL App (2d) 110974.
In that case, police officers observed as two cars parked at a gas station, and the drivers of both cars then exited their vehicles, engaged in a hand-to-hand transaction of “some unknown object or objects,” and got back into their vehicles. Officers then stopped the defendant’s vehicle, and cannabis was recovered.
The trial court denied the defendant’s motion to suppress, finding that officers believed that they had witnessed a drug transaction.
On appeal, the court relied on Ocampo to reverse, determining that the defendant’s conduct was consistent with “any number of innocent scenarios,” that the officers happened upon the defendant by coincidence, and that, other than the observed actions, the officers had no reason to suspect that criminal activity had occurred.
Petty is distinguishable on the basis that in the instant case the officer testified that he observed the hand-to-hand transaction and the fact that defendant’s van was parked in the middle of the street rather than in a parking spot. Moreover, after the exchange, both parties rapidly left the area, that is, the man fled on foot, and defendant drove away “at kind of a high rate of speed.”
Here, given the totality of the circumstances, the police relied upon “specific, articulable facts”, as justification for the stop of the van. Considering the facts available at the time, we conclude that “an individual of reasonable caution” would believe that the officer’s action was appropriate and, accordingly, the trial court properly denied defendant’s motion to quash arrest and suppress evidence.
The judgment of the circuit court of Cook County is affirmed.