This unreasonable search and seizure traffic stops ends in court where the judge has to remind the police that “lying under oath is never an option.” ¶ 26. The prosecution insists they did not know what the cops were up to.
People v. Gonzalez-Carrera, 2014 IL App (2d) 130968 (September).
Was this case an example of an illegal search and seizure during traffic stop? Did the police have probable cause or reasonable suspicion to stop this car?
Unreasonable Search And Seizure Traffic Stop
Traffic stop leads to car search and serious drug charges. Deputy finds more than 4 kilograms of cocaine and over a pound of methamphetamine in Defendant’s car.
Additionally, he was ticketed for “driving with one red tail light” (625 ILCS 5/12-201(b)).
The deputy noticed that the tail light emitted both red and white light when the brakes were activated. There was a “hole” the size of a “couple inches” in the red plastic covering, allowing white light to be visible.
On that basis, the deputy stopped Defendant.
The citation indicated, among other things, that it was daytime, that the roadway was dry, and that the visibility was clear. None of the boxes on the citation that indicated rain, fog, or snow were marked.
The trial court granted the Defendants motion to quash and suppress evidence.
The trial court reasoned that the law only required that defendant have two tail lights that emit red light that is visible for at least 500 feet. There was “no evidence that [those] lights failed throw a red light visible for at least 500 feet,” there was no violation of section 12-201(b). See ¶ 7. This was an example of an illegal search and seizure during traffic stop.
Did We Forget to Mention The Drugs?
The State then filed a motion to reopen the proofs. They claimed that a controlled delivery of four kilograms of cocaine and one pound of methamphetamine provided additional probable cause for the stop.
Apparently, Defendant was part of a federal investigation. The deputy that stopped Defendant did not mention this to the prosecution. They only brought it up after they were told all the drugs were suppressed. State told the judge they did not know if the deputy was aware of the drug deal.
Motion to reopen proofs, denied.
Wait, Did We Forget to Mention the Deputy Knew About the Drugs?
State files new motion to reconsider the denial to reopen proofs. Now it tells the court, that the Deputy knew all along. The deputy stopped the car because he knew Defendant was involved in a controlled delivery with the feds.
The trial court was not impressed. It found it “almost impossible to understand” why the deputy did not reveal all this information to the prosecution. The court saw this as dishonesty to the court because he was asked under oath for the basis of the stop. ¶ 11
Motion to reconsider denied. The drugs are out.
The Taillight Statute
The relevant part of the traffic statute at issue here says:
All other motor vehicles shall exhibit at least 2 lighted head lamps, with at least one on each side of the front of the vehicle, which satisfy United States Department of Transportation requirements, showing white lights, including that emitted by high intensity discharge (HID) lamps, or lights of a yellow or amber tint, during the period from sunset to sunrise, at times when rain, snow, fog, or other atmospheric conditions require the use of windshield wipers, and at any other times when, due to insufficient light or unfavorable atmospheric conditions, persons and vehicles on the highway are not clearly discernible at a distance of 1000 feet. Parking lamps may be used in addition to but not in lieu of such head lamps. Every motor vehicle, trailer, or semi-trailer shall also exhibit at least 2 lighted lamps, commonly known as tail lamps, which shall be mounted on the left rear and right rear of the vehicle so as to throw a red light visible for at least 500 feet in the reverse direction, except that a truck tractor or road tractor manufactured before January 1, 1968 and all motorcycles need be equipped with only one such tail lamp.
See 625 ILCS 5/12-201(b).
Motions to Reopen
A court has the discretion to allow a litigant to reopen its case under appropriate circumstances. see People v. Hopson, 2012 IL App (2d) 110471, ¶ 19.
Factors effecting the court’s decision include:
(1) whether the failure to introduce the evidence was inadvertent;
(2) any surprise or unfair prejudice to the other party;
(3) the importance of the new evidence; and
(4) whether there were cogent reasons that justified denying the motion to reopen.
The appellate court noted that Defendant was stopped at 3:40 pm and the stop did not occur between sunset and sunrise. Nor was there any other evidence that visibility was limited at the time of the stop.
Thus, there could have been no violation of that provision, regardless of whether the left taillight emitted a white light. This is true because there was no showing that the section required the use of tail lights at all.
The State failed to establish that the deputy had either reasonable suspicion or probable cause that section 12-201(b) was being violated.
Not Allowing State to Reopen
The appellate court didn’t like the State’s behavior either. The court said, “This type of post hearing switcheroo is not an appropriate use of a motion to reopen proofs.” ¶ 22
The court further reasoned:
“The State cites no authority, and we are not aware of any, that would allow it, after unsuccessfully responding on one basis to a motion to suppress, to come into court and attempt to establish an entirely different justification for the seizure. It is one thing to allow a party, under limited circumstances, to introduce evidence to support its original theory or claim because it inadvertently failed to do so. It is an entirely different matter to give a losing litigant a second bite at the apple by allowing it to argue an alternative basis for relief after it lost on its original basis.”
The court also upheld the denial of the motion to reconsider for the same reasons. The courts final words are also compelling.
“Honesty and candor between law enforcement officers and prosecutors is essential to the fair administration of justice. If an ongoing investigation is in jeopardy of being derailed because of an ongoing prosecution, there are legal options available to postpone the disclosure, so long as the defendant’s rights are not compromised. In short, lying under oath is never an option.”