Number 7 of Bill Wolf’s “Top Ten” Fourth Amendment Cases for Illinois Lawyers: The Illinois Appellate Court Case of People v. Davis

Officers are investigating an individual for narcotics trafficking, which included making undercover buys, and arranging for a buy in the late afternoon on the date in question. On that date, officers are conducting a surveillance of this individual following him to a shopping mall parking lot. Another car parks next to this individual’s car, parked so the driver’s can directly talk to each other. The surveilled individual hands an unknown object, white in color to car that just arrived. Nothing is seen, currency or otherwise, passed to the surveilled individual.

This car that receives the unknown item drives away, and officers follow. Officers move in on this vehicle after observing a traffic violation. The Defendant in the back seat is taken out of the car and placed in the police car handcuffed. A female is also taken out of the vehicle. The driver, a paraplegic, tells officers that the car his not his, and they can go ahead and search it.

            Officers decide to take the paraplegic out of the car, lifting him out so he can lean up against the side of the vehicle. The vehicle is searched and nothing is found. At that time a sergeant talked again with the paraplegic, whose whispers and head and eye movements lead the officer searching the back seat to believe that the drugs were there. He finds a panel and pries it open, finding a secret compartment. The compartment contained a kilogram of cocaine, a scale, and three weapons. The Defendant originally in the back seat is charged with the Super X offense of Possession with the Intent to Deliver of over 900 grams of cocaine.

            The Defendant’s Motion to Quash is denied by the trial court based solely on the idea that the driver consented to the search. The Appellate Court finds that the initial search was fine, but that the act of prying apart car panels exceeded the scope of the original search.

            Nevertheless, the Appellate Court affirms, finding that the activity of the original target, the passing of an unknown item in the parking lot (which may be a drug transaction), the fact that the item did not turn up in the search of the car, and the movements of the driver gave the police probable cause to arrest and search the vehicle. 

The case is People v. Davis, 2019 IL App. (1st) 160408. Decided 9/23/2019 Modified on denial of rehearing 10/28/2019, Corrected 12/6/2019

Petition for Leave to Appeal Filed 12/9/2019.

This Law Office has taken over the representation of Mr. Davis from the Office of the State Appellate Defender and filed the Petition for Leave to Appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court on his behalf.

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