DUI Case Summary: People v. Hacker

No. 4-08-0422; 2009 Ill. App. LEXIS 65

(As appearing in the Illinois State Bar Association
Traffic Laws and Courts Newsletter
, June 2009, Vol. 18, No. 4.)

Petition to Rescind Statutory Summary Suspension Denied Where Defendant Failed to Produce Evidence Demonstrating that Roadblock Was an Illegal Drug Interdiction Check-Point or that Police Lacked Probable Cause for Stop

BACKGROUND

On March 16, 2008, police officers arrested Defendant for driving under the influence of alcohol and gave him a copy of the Notice of Statutory Summary Suspension. Defendant filed a petition to rescind the statutory summary suspension. The petition alleged that the police stopped Defendant’s vehicle at an illegal “drug-interdiction check-point,” forced him from the vehicle, and forced him to perform an illegal field-sobriety test. Defendant asserted that stopping his vehicle at an illegal drug-interdiction check-point violated his fourth amendment rights, thereby rendering the statutory summary suspension unlawful and improper. Defendant also filed a motion to suppress evidence on the same grounds.

The Trial court held a Hearing on Defendant’s petition to rescind the statutory summary suspension. Defendant testified that on March 16, 2008, at approximately 1 a.m., he left downtown Bloomington to return to his parents’ house. Defendant testified that he obeyed the traffic laws, and did not speed, drive erratically, or cross the centerline. At the intersection of Orlando and North 51, Defendant noticed that the traffic signals were flashing red. Defendant drove up to the traffic line. A police officer approached Defendant and instructed him to stop. Additional officers walked up to him and said “We’re doing a drug check-point and we want you to pull on up.” Defendant pulled up and talked to the next officer, who directed Defendant to move his vehicle to the side of the road. When asked if that officer also told Defendant he was looking for “miscellaneous criminal activity,” Defendant testified “Yes, he did.”

Defendant testified he had no prior knowledge–through newspaper articles or radio announcements–of the drug-interdiction check-point. He did not recall seeing any warning signs on the road alerting to a “drug check-point” or “criminal check-point”. Defendant admitted that such signs could have been on the road and he might not have seen them. He also admitted he had never heard anything on the radio about “stop points” previously, he did not currently live in the Bloomington area, and did “not that often” read the local newspaper.

The officer administered various field-sobriety tests. Defendant admitted on cross-examination that he had been drinking that night, and he blew into a breathalyzer machine, the result of which was 0.126. Defendant testified that the officer arrested him for DUI and took him to jail. After Defendant bonded out, he received notice of summary suspension from the Secretary of State.

Defendant’s mother testified that she lived in Lexington, Illinois, and subscribed to the Pantagraph. She never saw any articles or local notices about a “drug check-point” or “criminal-interdiction check-point,” and did not hear any notice on the radio about a “drug check-point”.

The State tendered the arresting officer’s report, which the Trial court admitted, over Defendant’s objection. 625 ILCS 5/2-118.1(b) (West 2006). The report provided, in part, that Defendant had very red, glassy eyes and a moderate odor of alcohol beverage on his breath, poor balance and that Defendant swayed as he walked. Defendant admitted having had a few beers. After administering field sobriety tests and a portable breath test, the officer arrested Defendant for DUI. The officer read the Warning to Motorist to Defendant and Defendant consented to “a RBT” test, the result of which was 0.126. The officer issued an “immediate notice of summary suspension with a receipt to drive.”

The Trial court entered an order denying the petition to rescind the statutory summary suspension. The Trial court concluded that Defendant had not proved, by a preponderance of the evidence, that “the stop was an illegal drug-interdiction check-point.” Specifically, the Trial court found that Defendant only presented as evidence his own “vague testimony” that the officers were checking for drugs, miscellaneous criminal activity, and suspicion of drunk driving. According to the Trial court, Defendant failed to present any evidence that the officer questioned him about drugs, that drug-sniffing dogs were present, or any other evidence to specifically show that the police conducted an illegal drug-interdiction check-point. The Trial court noted that the officer’s report reflected that the check-point was a roadside safety check. The Trial court noted also that Defendant failed to stop when requested, which gave the officers an additional basis to stop Defendant’s vehicle.

Defendant filed a Motion to Reconsider, asserting that the State had only recently provided him with a recording of the traffic stop. Over the State’s objection, the Trial court agreed to review the recording of the stop. That recording showed the stop from the point when Defendant began the field sobriety tests until the officer and Defendant arrived at the jail. The recording did not show the initial encounter between Defendant and the officers at the check-point.

The Trial court entered an order stating that after reviewing the recording, the court found nothing to prove that the officers conducted an illegal drug-interdiction check-point or lacked probable cause for the stop. The Trial court denied Defendant’s Motion to Reconsider.

ANALYSIS

Writing for the Court, Justice Myerscough noted that in a Statutory Summary Suspension Hearing, the Defendant motorist bears the burden of proof to establish a prima facie case for rescission. People v. Granados, 332 Ill.App.3d 860, 862, 773 N.E.2d 1272, 1274, 266 Ill.Dec. 202 (2002). Justice Myerscough stated that the Appellate Court would reverse a Trial court’s judgment on a petition to rescind a statutory summary suspension only if it was against the manifest weight of the evidence. People v. Fonner, 385 Ill.App.3d 531, 539, 898 N.E.2d 646, 653, 325 Ill.Dec. 599 (2008). The Appellate Court noted, however, that the Illinois Supreme Court recently applied a two-part standard of review in an appeal of a petition to rescind. In People v. Wear, 229 Ill.2d 545, 561-62, 893 N.E.2d 631, 641, 323 Ill.Dec. 359 (2008), the Supreme Court held that the reviewing court will defer to factual findings but will review de novo the ultimate determination of whether the petition to rescind should be granted.

The Court outlined the grounds upon which a petition to rescind is based, and acknowledged that in addition to the statutory grounds for rescinding a summary suspension (625 ILCS 5/2-118.1(b) (West 2006)), a suspension may be rescinded where the stop of the Defendant’s vehicle was improper. People v. Paige, 385 Ill.App.3d 486, 489, 896 N.E.2d 879, 882, 324 Ill.Dec. 803 (2009).

The Court then analyzed fourth amendment search and seizure issues within the context of police roadblocks. The Court stated that a seizure under the fourth amendment occurs when a vehicle is stopped at a roadblock or check-point. People v. Wells, 241 Ill.App.3d 141, 143, 608 N.E.2d 578, 581, 181 Ill.Dec. 505 (1993); People v. Bartley, 109 Ill.2d 273, 280, 486 N.E.2d 880, 883, 93 Ill.Dec. 347 (1985) (not all roadblocks constitute a per se violation of the fourth amendment). The Court outlined some of the relevant factors for determining whether a roadblock or check-point is constitutional: (1) the presence of procedural guidelines; (2) the absence of discretion in individual field officers; (3) some indication to the public of the official nature of the operation; and (4) selection of the site by supervisory personnel. Wells, 241 Ill.App.3d at 144, 608 N.E.2d at 581 (holding that safety-check roadblock did not violate the fourth amendment). The Court maintained that the overriding concern is whether the road block or check-point is reasonable. Bartley, Supra. The Court reasoned, however, that roadblocks, the primary purpose of which “was to detect evidence of ordinary criminal wrongdoing,” such as roadblocks with the primary purpose of detecting illegal narcotics, violate the fourth amendment. City of Indianapolis v. Edmond, 531 U.S. 32, 121 S.Ct. 447 (2000).

On appeal, Defendant argued that the roadblock in question was an illegal drug-interdiction check-point. Defendant stressed that the arresting officer told Defendant, “We’re doing a drug check-point and we want you to pull on up.” The Appellate Court noted that the Trial court concluded that Defendant had not met his burden of presenting a prima facie case for rescission; Defendant’s testimony that the officers were checking for drugs, miscellaneous criminal activity, and suspicion of drunk driving, was vague. The Appellate Court pointed out that the Trial court specifically noted the lack of any other evidence to show that the roadblock was an illegal drug-interdiction check-point. Even after admitting and considering of the recording of the traffic stop, the Trial court concluded that there was no evidence demonstrating the roadblock was an illegal drug-interdiction check-point or the police lacked probable cause for the stop.

The Appellate Court noted that the Trial court did not find Defendant’s testimony credible or entitled to any weight. The Appellate Court refused to substitute its judgment for that of the Trial court when the Trial court’s findings were based on credibility of the witnesses or involved the weight of the evidence. People v. Tucker, 245 Ill.App.3d 161, 165, 614 N.E.2d 875, 877, 185 Ill.Dec. 434 (1993). The Appellate Court ruled that the Trial court did not err by denying Defendant’s petition to rescind his statutory summary suspension.

RULING

The Appellate Court affirmed the Trial court’s judgment.

David B. Franks
Lake in the Hills, IL