People v. Pulido, 2017 IL App (3d) 150215 (August). Episode 403 (Duration 9:59)
After a traffic stop the car is towed to the police station so it could be searched more thoroughly.
It turns out the defendant was under investigation by a narcotics unit and they had tipped of the trooper to defendant’s car.
Six days before the traffic stop defendant gave some meth to an undercover. They set up a bigger deal. Rather than go through with the deal investigators decided to tip off state troopers to the car.
All they told the trooper was that the car had drugs in it.
Didn’t tell him what kind of drugs or where they were kept.
The the evidence showed that defendant was properly stopped for speeding.
K-9 unit arrived at the scene while the stop was ongoing, and Rico alerted to narcotics.
The trial court noted that Rico’s certification had expired, but found that went to the weight of the evidence. The court also found that defendant consented to a search of his vehicle. No drugs were found during the first search and the vehicle was moved due to rain and safety issues.
Eventually, at the police station investigators found tubes wrapped with black tape from the vehicle’s air filter. Inside the tubes was a substance that later tested positive for methamphetamines.
Ultimately, the court found defendant guilty, and sentenced defendant to 15 years’ imprisonment.
Was seizing and towing the car outside the scope the police’s constitutional authority?
A traffic stop is analogous to a Terry investigatory stop, and therefore, the reasonableness of police conduct during a traffic stop may be judged by reference to Terry’s dual inquiry.
The two prongs of this inquiry are
(1) whether the stop was justified at its inception and
(2) whether the officer’s actions during the course of the stop were reasonably related in scope to the circumstances that initially justified the stop.
Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 19-20 (1968).
No Problem With The Speeding
Here, the trooper testified that he had tested and verified that his LIDAR device was working properly at the start of his shift. The LIDAR device showed defendant was traveling seven miles per hour above the posted speed limit. Defendant, therefore, violated section 11- 601(b) of the Illinois Vehicle Code (625 ILCS 5/11-601(b)).
The decision to stop defendant’s vehicle was lawful at its inception.
No Problem With The Drug Dog
After obtaining defendant’s information, the trooper and defendant returned to the squad car so that he could run the information through LEADS and write defendant a warning.
Before the trooper finished writing defendant a warning and receiving the confirmation from LEADS, the K-9 unit arrived on the scene and conducted the free-air sniff. After Rico alerted on the vehicle, the trooper was informed by radio that defendant’s LEADS check was clear. A free-air sniff conducted during a lawful traffic stop does not violate the fourth amendment, as long as it is done, as it was here, within the time reasonably required to complete the mission of the initial traffic stop.
Having found that the free-air sniff did not unreasonably prolong the traffic stop, we now consider whether Rico’s alert constituted probable cause to search defendant’s vehicle.
Did Dog’s Alert Provide Additional Authority?
Although we find that Rico’s positive alert provided the officers with probable cause to search defendant’s vehicle on I-80, we find that such probable cause dissipated after the officers’ initial 15 minute hand search of the vehicle did not reveal any evidence of narcotics or any evidence of a hidden compartment within the vehicle.
Was Moving The Car Authorized?
Therefore, we hold that the officers improperly transported defendant’s vehicle to the Channahon police department for a second search.
Because the initial hand search revealed neither narcotics nor any evidence of a hidden compartment within the vehicle, we conclude that the officers lacked probable cause to relocate the vehicle for a second search.
Probable Cause Can Dissipate
The fourth amendment requires that a search not continue longer than necessary to effectuate the purposes of an investigative stop.
More specifically, an investigative stop must cease once reasonable suspicion or probable cause dissipates.
In the present case, two state troopers searched the entire vehicle on I-80 and failed to find any contraband. More significantly, the State failed to produce any evidence that they observed any indication that the vehicle may have had a hidden compartment that would justify moving the vehicle to the Channahon police department for a second search. The mere fact that the trooper believed the vehicle may have contained a hidden compartment is insufficient to establish probable cause, as he offered no evidence to support his belief.
Thus, when the initial search of the vehicle on I-80 was fruitless, any probable cause dissipated and the officers no longer had any authority to continue their search.
This conclusion remains true even though the narcotics investigator testified that moving the vehicle was due to weather conditions and officer safety.
Yea, But He Gave Consent
The standard for measuring the scope of a suspect’s consent is that of “objective’ reasonableness,” which requires consideration of what a “typical reasonable person [would] have understood by the exchange between the officer and the suspect.”
The scope of a search is defined by its expressed object or purpose.
In the present case, the trooper asked defendant on I-80, “can we search your vehicle to make sure there’s nothing in there that’s not supposed to be, there’s nothing illegal?” and defendant allegedly replied “yes.”
Assuming defendant did in fact respond in the affirmative, the reasonable inference is that his consent was limited to a search of his vehicle at the site of the stop on I-80. Thus, a reasonable person in defendant’s position would have understood that he had authorized the trooper to search his entire vehicle while it was stopped on I-80.
In other words, it is unreasonable to believe that when defendant gave his consent, he also consented to the relocation of his vehicle for an even more invasive search. Stated another way, we do not believe an Illinois citizen who is pulled over on a highway and subsequently consents to a search of his vehicle intends to voluntarily and knowingly consent to have his vehicle removed from the highway and relocated to the local police station for a further search once the initial search on the highway is completed.
The officers’ decision to relocate defendant’s vehicle in the instant case exceeded the scope of defendant’s alleged consent along I-80.
The officers engaged in impermissible conduct when they seized defendant’s vehicle without probable cause and transported it to the Channahon police department for a more prolonged and invasive search.
It is of no consequence that defendant later “consented” to the second search as the second search was inextricably bound with the illegal conduct of the officers. We therefore conclude that defendant’s “consent” (being the fruit of an illegal assertion of authority) cannot justify a further illegal search.
Consequently, the second search pursuant to the traffic stop performed by the officers at the Channahon police department lacked probable cause and cannot be justified by defendant’s later consent.
The State asserted that the probable cause for the supplemental search in Channahon was that flowing from the prior money-less drug transaction between defendant and undercover officers six days earlier. The proper response to that claimed probable cause was to use the ensuing six days either to complete the drug investigation with an actual transaction or to apply for a warrant to search defendant’s car.
It was not authorization to orchestrate a traffic stop to enable a warrantless search.