People v. Lomeli, 2017 IL App (3d) 150815 (December). Episode 434 (Duration 9:18)
Defendant gets stopped for having a rosary hanging from his rearview mirror.
Defendant gets pulled over for having a rosary dangling from his front mirror.
Officer actually said he saw something hanging that might have been obstructing the driver’s view. The officer did not recall what the object was.
He initiated a traffic stop based off the object suspended in the rearview mirror. Defendants gets arrested for DWLS.
It was a rosary.
The defendant said the rosary was a circle of beads with a single strand necklace at the bottom. He stated that the rosary hung down about halfway between the rearview mirror and the dashboard and was “[a] few centimeters” wide.
The Traffic Code
Section 12-503(c) of the Illinois Vehicle Code (Code) states, in pertinent part,
“No person shall drive a motor vehicle with any objects placed or suspended between the driver and the front windshield *** which materially obstructs the driver’s view.”
See also People v. Dunmire, 2019 IL App (4th) 190316 (December). Episode 717 (Duration 12:41) (The Tinted Window Statute Permits Up To 35% Light Transmittance On Side Windows)
On appeal, the defendant argues that the trial court erred in denying the defendant’s motion to suppress evidence because no reasonably objective officer could have believed the object hanging from the rear view mirror of the car the defendant was driving materially obstructed the driver’s view.
Some Case Law
“A police officer may conduct a brief, investigatory stop of a person where the officer can point to specific and articulable facts which, taken together with rational inferences from those facts, reasonably warrant the intrusion.” People v. Hackett, 2012 IL 111781, ¶ 20 (car stopped for multiple lane deviations was proper).
The officer’s belief that the intrusion is warranted must amount to more than a hunch, but need not rise to the level of suspicion required for probable cause. See People v. Close, 238 Ill. 2d 497, 505 (2010)). But a traffic stop may be justified on something less than probable cause.
A police officer can effect a lawful Terry stop without first considering whether the circumstances he or she observed would satisfy each element of a particular offense.
This Is Not Probable Cause
For probable cause and conviction, there must be something more. But an investigatory stop in this situation allows the officer to inquire further into the reason for the stop, either by inquiry of the driver or verification of the condition of the possible obstruction.
The elements of windshield obstruction include a reasonable belief that the defendant had violated each of the following elements of the offense:
(1) that the defendant was driving a vehicle with an object placed or suspended between him and the windshield,
(2) that the object obstructed the driver’s view, and
(3) such obstruction was material.
However, an officer may conduct an investigatory stop with reasonable, articulable suspicion, which is less than probable cause, and “without first determining whether the circumstances he observed would satisfy each element of a particular offense.” People v. Little, 2016 IL App (3d) 130683.
The stop then allows the officer to further investigate “to either confirm or dispel his suspicion” that the offense occurred.
Here, the officer observed an object hanging from the defendant’s rearview mirror that he stated he reasonably believed to be an obstruction.
Based on the evidence, we cannot say that such a decision was against the manifest weight of the evidence. In coming to this conclusion, we note that it is not necessary for us to determine whether the officer reasonably believed the obstruction was material at the time he initiated his investigatory stop.
The answer to that particular question would only be implicated when determining whether the officer had probable cause to cite defendant for a violation of section 12-503(c) of the Code, which is not a question before us on appeal.
The stop in this situation simply allowed the officer to investigate further into the obstruction hanging from the defendant’s rearview mirror.