May, 2021

Illinois: District Court Abused Its
Discretion When It Denied Motion to
Sever in Federal Corruption Case

The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed the vacation of defendant’s felon in possession of a firearm conviction holding that the evidence was insufficient to establish defendant knowingly possessed a firearm on or about his person where a gun was found in a minivan between 5 and 10 feet away from defendant, who had been driving the van, the gun was closest to the back seat passenger, the officer indicated he did not think defendant could reach the gun from the driver’s seat, the officer did not see defendant touch the gun, defendant did not own the van, and the crime lab did not determine that defendant’s finger prints were on the gun. The court opined that a defendant’s status as owner-driver of the vehicle does not put him into possession of everything within the passenger area when there are passengers present who may, in fact, be the ones in possession of the contraband. People. v. Wise, ___ N.E.3d ___ (04-15-2021, WL 1414111).

Seventh Circuit: District Court Erred When
It Denied Defendant’s Motion to Suppress
Where Officer Improperly
Prolonged Traffic Stop

After receiving a message about defendant’s vehicle, an officer trailed him intending to find a pretext for a roadside stop. The initial stop lasted 10 minutes, and then the officer spent about six minutes questioning defendant about his residence, employment, travel history, plans, vehicle history, and registration information and then told defendant that they had to go to a gas station to complete the paperwork because he was concerned for their safety. The officer requested a drug dog, which quickly alerted to drugs hidden in the vehicle. The Seventh Circuit reversed the denial of defendant’s motion to suppress holding that it was a violation of the Fourth Amendment to prolong the stop to question defendant about topics that the officer already knew the answers to or topics that went beyond the limited topics justified by a traffic stop. The fact that defendant was from a large American city, that he drove cautiously and below the speed limit, that he owned a popular brand of car, that he sat with good posture, and that he had empty fast-food wrappers in his passenger compartment did not create reasonable suspicion to prolong the stop. United States v. Cole, ___ F.3d ___ (CA 7, 04-16-2021, WL 1437201).

Fourth Circuit: District Court Erred When It Denied Defendant’s Motion to Suppress Evidence Found in Warrantless Search of Backpack After High-Speed Chase

Defendant appealed the denial of his motion to suppress after a jury convicted him of drug and gun charges. The Fourth Circuit reversed extending the holding in Arizona v. Gant, 556 U.S. 332 (2009), beyond the automobile context to the search of a backpack and holding that the warrantless search of defendant’s backpack following his arrest for attempting to evade the police in a high speed chase was not justified as a search incident to an arrest where, at the time of the search, defendant was handcuffed and lying face down on the ground with three armed officers around him and it was not reasonable for the officer conducting the search to believe that defendant could access the backpack. The Court further held that the search of the vehicle was not justified under the automobile exception to the warrant requirement where, while the motorist’s flight coupled with the large amount of cash found in his pockets at the time of his arrest may have given officers an articulable suspicion that evidence of a crime could be located in his vehicle, it did not give the officers probable cause for such a belief. Finally, the Court held that the search of the vehicle was not justified as a search incident to an arrest because defendant was lying face down on the ground with his hands handcuffed behind his back. United States v. Davis, ___ F.3d ___ (CA 4, 05-07-2021, WL 1826255).