Updated: 01-07-16
Firearm Laws
Search & Seizure

People v. Miller, 824 N.E. 2d 1080 , Illinois 1st District Appellate Court (2-7-05).

If you are standing on the corner, you had better just be “watching all the girls go by.” In a recent Illinois 1st District Appellate Court affirmation of a “guilty“ verdict , the defendant, standing at a specified corner at about 4:p/m, was spotted by an officer responding to an “in-person” tip from a citizen that a black male (fitting a very general description of the defendant)--that is, a black man with dark clothing-- was standing on that corner and had brandished a firearm. After a pat-down search revealed a weapon on the defendant he succeeded in escaping from the officer, and was later arrested at his home. The Appeals Court sustained the trial court’s denial of defendant’s motion to suppress the evidence (recovered firearm), and rejected the defense reliance upon a U.S. Supreme Court case and two Illinois cases, where the descriptions given by the informants in those cases were found to be insufficient to justify a Terry stop and frisk.
Defendant’s analogy of his case to Florida v. J.L., 529 U.S. 266, 120 S. Ct. 1375 (2000) was distinguished, the Court noting the anonymous tip in J.L. lacked the moderate indicia of reliability  --the tipster having given an accurate description of the offender absent any first-hand knowledge of the concealed criminal activity--while in this case the tipster told the officer that he “observed” a man displaying a gun.
The Court also rejected the defense argument that the description was “general and vague,” finding that “the State did present evidence that the informant described the person with the gun as a black man wearing dark clothing standing on a specific corner.”
The following highlights summarize the Court’s final determination of the defense argument regarding the alleged general and vague “description” given to the officer by the informant:
“Defendant further argues that the informant’s description was insufficient to justify a Terry stop because it was not particular enough to eliminate innocent individuals, as any number of black men could be near the corner of Lemoyne and Spaulding at 4:00 p.m. As noted by the State, whether an officer has reasonable suspicion to warrant a Terry stop depends on the totality of the circumstances. Alabama v. White, 496 U.S at 330, 110 S.Ct. at 2416, 110 L Ed. at 309; People v. Jackson. 348 Ill. App. 3d at 729, 284 Ill. Dec. 752, 810 N.E. 2d 542. On these facts, we conclude that the stop was justified and that the trial court properly denied defendant’s motion to suppress evidence. An individual informed officers Rodriguez and Lazaro near North Avenue and Spaulding that he had observed a black male wearing dark clothing displaying a gun at the corner of Lemoyne and Spaulding. The officers reasonably relied on this information, as it was provided by an identifiable individual who voluntarily came forward to report possible criminal behavior. The officers then drove the approximately one-eight of the mile to that corner where they observed the defendant, who matched the description given by the informant. Because the defendant matched the description and was standing on the corner of Lemoyne and Spaulding shortly after the officers were approached by the informant, we conclude they had specific and articulable facts to justify a Terry stop. Because the informant said he had seen a gun, Rodriguez reasonably suspected defendant was armed and was justified in conducting a frisk. See In Re A.V., 336 Ill. App. 3d. at 144, 270 Ill. Dec. 536, 783 N.E. 2d 111. The gun then fell from the defendant’s waistband as he fled. Defendant’s motion to suppress was properly denied. For the reasons stated above, the judgment of the circuit court of Cook County is affirmed.”

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