Saturday, July 16, 2011

DUI Appeal - Illinois Says All Cars That Stop On Shoulder (Even Temporarily) Are Legally Subject to Police Seizures

In People of Illinois v. Dittmar, Nos. 2–09–1112, 2–09–1304, June 15, 2011, Appeal from the Circuit Court of Stephenson County, the parties presnted the following evidence in the police report by stipulation:

[I]f called as a witness, Stephenson County sheriff's deputy Shan MacAdam, the arresting officer, would testify as follows:

“While on routine patrol[,] I was traveling north bound on Route 26 north of McConnell Road when I observed an oncoming south bound vehicle. The vehicle was traveling at a slow speed, [and] the right turn signal was activated a very short distance before the vehicles met. The vehicle, a white Chevrolet Cavalier convertible[,] had slowed greatly and was pulling to the shoulder of the roadway as I passed. The squad [car] was also traveling slowly[,] and I observed a white hat on the head of the driver.

After passing the vehicle[,] I turned the squad [car] around to check if the vehicle was having mechanical problems, or if there were problems with the occupants. As I approached the rear of the car[,] I observed the subject with the white hat walking from the driver door around the rear of the car and to the right passenger door. Another subject from the right side of the car was walking around the rear of the car to the driver door. Both doors were open as they changed sides of the car.

The subject wearing the white hat got into the passenger seat, while a female stood next to the open driver door as she watched the squad [car] stop behind her. She got into the driver seat as I stopped directly behind the white Chevrolet, bearing TX08/777CCJ.

I approached the driver door, which was still open, and immediately noted the strong odor of an alcoholic beverage flowing from the interior.”

The video displayed that, as he pulled onto the shoulder behind defendant's car, the officer activated his overhead emergency lights and gave the dispatcher the make, model, and license plate number of the car.

Reviewing Illinois law, the court stated as follows:

In People v. McDonough, 239 Ill.2d 260, 272 (2010), the supreme court identified a two-prong test for judging whether an encounter qualifies as a community-caretaking endeavor:

“First, law enforcement officers must be performing some function other than the investigation of a crime. [Citations.] In making this determination, a court views the officer's actions objectively. [Citation.] Second, the search or seizure must be reasonable because it was undertaken to protect the safety of the general public. [Citation.] ‘Reasonableness, in turn, is measured in objective terms by examining the totality of the circumstances.’ [Citation.] The court must balance a citizen's interest in going about his or her business free from police interference against the public's interest in having police officers perform services in addition to strictly law enforcement.”

The appeals court further explained that a community caretaking function simply because there is a seizure:

As the supreme court in Luedemann clarified, the community-caretaking doctrine justifies not consensual encounters—which need no justification under the constitution—but seizures. See Luedemann, 222 Ill.2d at 548 (“It is clear, then, that the ‘community caretaking’ doctrine is analytically distinct from consensual encounters and is invoked to validate a search or seizure as reasonable under the fourth amendment.”). The error that Luedemann corrected was at one time prevalent in the appellate court, including this district. For instance, our decision in Lee, which defendant cited below and continues to cite on appeal, committed the error. See Lee, 291 Ill.App.3d at 54 (“Once a seizure has occurred, an officer is not acting in his community caretak[ing] function, even if his original intention had nothing to do with detection or investigation of a crime.).” Lee's conception of community-caretaking encounters was abandoned by this district even before Luedemann was decided in 2006. See People v. Mitchell, 355 Ill.App.3d 1030, 1033 (2nd Dist.2005) (noting that the community-caretaking doctrine “has nothing to do with consensual encounters; for, by their very nature, consensual encounters need no justification. Treating it as synonymous with consensual encounters deprives the doctrine of any analytical content.”).

The court stated the following test: The question * * * is not how regularly the police conduct in question occurs as part of crime detection, investigation, or prevention, but whether the conduct is, in the context at issue, so lacking an objectively grounded public-safety purpose that the officer could not be “performing some function other than the investigation of a crime” ( McDonough, 239 Ill.2d at 272).

Concluding that this case was a proper community caretaking seizure, the court stated:

"We recognize that, unlike in the cases cited by the State, MacAdam did not come upon a vehicle already at rest, without knowledge of how long it had been there ( McDonough, Laake ), or have specific information that the driver might be impaired or in distress ( Robinson ). The vehicle came to a stop while MacAdam observed it, and he had no specific information about the travelers aside from what he saw. Nonetheless, MacAdam had reason to believe that the occupants might need assistance. Even if MacAdam could not be certain that there was an emergency, his lack of certainty had to be weighed against the likelihood that, if he did not stop to inquire, the travelers would not receive assistance for some time, given the rural location. MacAdam had also to consider the potential hazards to the travelers from passing traffic, given that no lights were activated on their car despite the dim ambient light.

"The public interest served by MacAdam's actions more than outweighed the intrusion. See McDonough, 239 Ill.2d at 272 (court must balance a citizen's interest in being free from police intrusion against the public interest in having police perform services in addition to crime detection and prevention); State v. Crawford, 659 N.W.2d 537, 543 (Iowa 2003) (“[T]he court must balance the public need and interest against the degree and nature of the intrusion upon the citizen's privacy.”). The video of the stop shows that approximately 36 seconds elapsed between MacAdam's activating his emergency lights and reaching the driver's door of the car—at which point, defendant does not contest, MacAdam made observations that justified further detention of defendant, resulting ultimately in his arrest. There was an ample public-safety justification for those 36 seconds."

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