In re Jarrell C., 2017 IL App (1st) 170932 (December). Episode 447 (Duration 14:47)
Holding your crotch is not indicative of carrying a gun; Illinois fails to apply the exclusionary rule after police discover a warrant notwithstanding Utah v. Strieff.
See Utah v. Strieff
Utah v. Strieff
In Strieff, a law enforcement officer conducting surveillance on a suspected drug house noticed the defendant exit the house and walk away. The officer followed and eventually confronted the defendant in a nearby parking lot. Then the officer asked for and received the defendant’s identification card and conveyed the information to the police dispatcher. A warrant check revealed the defendant had an outstanding warrant, and he was placed under arrest. During a search incident to arrest, the officer discovered drugs and drug paraphernalia on the defendant’s person. The Court found that the discovery of an outstanding arrest warrant was “a critical intervening circumstance” that “broke the causal chain between an unconstitutional stop and the discovery of incriminating evidence.” See Utah v. Strieff, 579 U.S. ___, ___, 136 S. Ct. 2056, 2061 (2016).
While driving in an unmarked car, Officer Ustaszewski was showing the commander and the captain areas of concern in a high-crime area so they could determine where to best deploy resources. He observed respondent standing on Kenneth Avenue in front of a building that is a known Latin Eagles hangout, holding his waistband or the material of his shorts between the waist and the crotch area like he was “holding something” with his right hand.
Ustaszewski testified that, in his opinion as an intelligence officer familiar with different areas where street gangs hang out, when people hold their waistbands, they are concealing objects, most likely guns. Officer Ustaszewski observed respondent for a few minutes and saw him looking in the direction of the officers and then walking inside the currency exchange.
The commander and the captain followed respondent inside the currency exchange.
Defendant was waiting in line to purchase a bus card.
Less than a minute and a half later, a police officer (the commander) entered the currency exchange. Respondent indicated that the police officer motioned with his finger for respondent to “come here.” Respondent replied “Who me?” The officer said “Yes, you.”
Respondent stated that the officer had his hand on his gun.
Respondent walked over to the officer at that point. Two other officers entered the currency exchange. One of officers told him to lift up his shirt. Respondent replied,
“What’s the problem, sir? I didn’t do anything.”
The officer told respondent to lift up his shirt “before we go over there and do it for you.”
Respondent lifted up his shirt while turning around.
Next, the officers told him to put his hands on the railing so they could search him. One officer unholstered his gun. Another officer searched and recovered a gun from respondent’s left side.
Respondent was then taken outside to a police car.
The police recovered some drugs from his person.
Other Police Testimony
The officer asked respondent to lift up the front of his T-shirt, but respondent only lifted up the back of the shirt slightly and turned around. Ustaszewski could not see the front of respondent. Respondent then turned around and pulled out his shirt, and the officer saw that the shirt “buckled up on the front.” Ustaszewski stated that at that point, he knew that respondent had a gun.
Ustaszewski testified that he believed respondent was behaving similarly to other gun offenders he had previously arrested based on “the nervousness, the holding of the front waistband, reluct[ance] to lift his shirt up.”
Ustaszewski had respondent place his hands on the railing while Commander Escamilla recovered a handgun from respondent’s front waistband.
He Had A Warrant
The State admitted into evidence a certified copy of a previous juvenile arrest warrant for respondent issued by the circuit court on pursuant to an unrelated case. There was no evidence presented that any of the officers were aware of the arrest warrant issued by the circuit court before or at the time respondent was stopped and searched.
Trial Judge Applies Attenuation Doctrine
After closing arguments, the trial court found that respondent holding the area between his waist and crotch did not give the officers a reasonable articulated suspicion to seize respondent. The court held there was an attenuation of the illegal seizure due to the existence of a valid arrest warrant for respondent at the time of the seizure, and the police conduct was not flagrant.
The court denied respondent’s motion to suppress the evidence.
On appeal, respondent argues that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress.
Respondent contends that the trial court properly determined the investigatory stop was lacking reasonable suspicion but the court erred in its application of the attenuation doctrine. According to respondent, his previous arrest warrant did not attenuate the unlawful detention from the discovery of the evidence when the officers were not aware of the existence of the warrant at the time of the search, before or during the discovery of the gun and the drugs.
The mere holding up someone’s pants or putting something in one’s pockets is not a hallmark of criminal activity. In addition, the video exhibit included in the record on appeal corroborates respondent’s testimony that he was not holding his waistband at the time respondent was inside the currency exchange.
Under general search & seizure jurisprudence, there are three exceptions to the warrant requirement. Each turns on the causal relationship between the unconstitutional act and the discovery of evidence.
Those exceptions are known as
(1) the independent source doctrine,
(2) the inevitable discovery doctrine, and
(3) the attenuation doctrine.
The attenuation doctrine allows for the admission of evidence obtained unlawfully when the connection between the unconstitutional police conduct and the evidence is remote or has been interrupted by some intervening circumstance, so that the interest protected by the constitutional guarantee that has been violated would not be served by suppression of the evidence obtained.
In Utah v. Strieff, the Supreme Court considered whether the discovery of a valid existing warrant is sufficient to break the causal chain between an unlawful stop and the discovery of evidence.
The Court looked to the three factors espoused in Brown v. Illinois, 422 U.S. 590, 602 (1975) for determining whether the attenuation doctrine applied:
(1) the temporal proximity between the unconstitutional conduct and the discovery of evidence to determine how closely the discovery of evidence followed the unconstitutional search,
(2) the presence of intervening circumstances, and
(3) the purpose and flagrancy of the official misconduct.
In Strieff, the officer stopped the defendant without reasonable suspicion and then conducted a warrant check, and based on the warrant he discovered, he arrested defendant. The drugs at issue were found pursuant to the search incident to the arrest.
As a result, the causal chain between the officer’s illegal action—the initial, unjustified Terry stop—and the search was “broken” by the intervening discovery of the warrant.
Unlike Strieff, the instant case presents a different situation.
Nothing in the record shows that the officers were aware of the warrant before or at the time respondent was detained and searched. Neither Officer Ustaszewski, nor Commander Escamilla investigated or learned of the existence of the warrant after stopping respondent and before searching him. In other words, there were no intervening circumstances between the initial illegal stop and the discovery of the evidence.
Indeed, an intervening circumstance is one that dissipates the taint of unconstitutional police conduct by breaking the causal connection between the illegal conduct and the evidence. Where an intervening circumstance has been held sufficient to break the causal chain it has been newly discovered information, untainted by illegality. Notably, in all these cases, there was a break in the causal chain prompted by new information or intervening event subsequent to the illegal stop and before the discovery of the evidence.
In sharp contrast, here, the arrest warrant, although a valid one, was unknown information to the police at the time of the search and the discovery of the evidence. Accordingly, the arrest warrant did not do anything to attenuate the taint of the illegal stop.
Unlike Strieff, here, the officers did not discover the arrest warrant between the unlawful stop and the discovery of the gun and the drugs.
Accordingly, since there was no intervening circumstance to cause a break between the police misconduct and the evidence recovered, we find that the second factor favors suppression of the evidence.
We reverse the court’s holding on this issue.
Based on the foregoing, we conclude that the trial court erred in denying respondent’s motion to quash arrest and suppress evidence obtained as a result of the illegal stop. Because the State cannot prevail on remand without the suppressed evidence, we reverse respondent’s adjudication of delinquency.