Third District Reverses Drug Conviction

The Third District Appellate Court recently published a decision reversing a Will County drug conviction. People v. Pulido, 2017 IL App (3d) 150215. The case involved the use of drug-sniffing dogs during a traffic stop. The traffic stop at issue – speeding seven miles over – was clearly a pretext to search the vehicle. Narcotics officers had information from an informant that drugs would be in this vehicle and had relayed the information to an Illinois State Trooper with instructions to stop this particular vehicle. When narcotics officers arrived with a drug-sniffing dog, the dog alerted to the presence of drugs in the vehicle. No surprise here. However, a subsequent roadside search of the vehicle by the officers resulted in no contraband being found. Even though they found nothing at the scene, narcotics officers of NARCINT decided to relocate the vehicle to the Channahon Police Department for further search. The officers claimed the motorist consented to this subsequent relocation and search but audio and video evidence coincidentally “appears to malfunction at the time defendant gave his alleged consent to search the vehicle.” Pulido, 2017 IL. App (3d) 150215, ¶ 20. The police eventually found methamphetamine inside the defendant’s vehicle and he was charged with unlawful possession with the intent to deliver. Id. ¶ 3. The defendant filed a motion to suppress the evidence because it was illegally obtained via an illegal search. Id. ¶ 4. The bench trial overruled the objection and allowed the seized methamphetamine to be used and later found the defendant guilty, to which the defendant promptly appealed. Id. ¶ 28.

The Court had no issue with the pretextual nature of the stop finding it “lawful at the inception.” Id. ¶ 36. The Court also had no issue with the traffic stop being prolonged for the search as it was done “…within the time reasonably required to complete the mission of the initial stop.” Id. ¶ 41; citing Illinois v. Caballes, 543 U.S. 405, 407 (2004).

However, what the Court did take issue with was the relocation and more thorough search of the vehicle. Regarding the motorist’s consent, the Appellate Court remarked, “it is unreasonable to believe that when defendant gave his consent, he also consented to the relocation of his vehicle for an even more invasive search. Pulido, 2017 IL. App (3d) 150215, ¶ 57. The Court added further “[s]tated another way, we do not believe an Illinois citizen who is pulled over on a highway and subsequently consents to a search of his vehicle intends to voluntarily and knowingly consent to have his vehicle removed from the highway and relocated to the police station for a further search once the initial search on the highway is completed.” Id.

The Court reversed the defendant’s conviction on the grounds that the trial court should have granted the defendant’s motion to suppress evidence.

For more information on this case or any other traffic or criminal law topic, please contact the author, attorney James R. Doerr of Lavelle Law, at (847) 705-7555 or jdoerr@lavellelaw.com.