By: Leah Bendik
The Illinois Supreme Court’s January Term oral arguments begin Tuesday, January 14, 2020, with additional oral arguments scheduled for January 15th and 22nd. A total of 10 cases will be heard – 4 criminal and 6 civil. The following criminal cases are scheduled for argument this Term:
People v. Aaron Jackson No. 124112 January 14
People v. Jasper McLaurin No. 124563 January 14
People v. Charles Hill No. 124595 January 14
People v. Rory John Swenson No. 124688 January 14
Below is a summary for one of these cases, People v. Charles Hill. Summaries for this case and others pending in the Illinois Supreme Court can be found in our Cases Pending publication, accessible to ALA members on the ALA's website.
People v. Charles Hill
In May 2017, police pulled over defendant when they thought his passenger matched the description of a wanted fugitive. It was not the fugitive. But the officer smelled raw cannabis. A search of the car found crack cocaine. Defendant moved to suppress. The trial court granted suppression on the basis that the stop was not justified because the officer had no corroborating evidence that the passenger was the fugitive. The State appealed, and the appellate court held that the stop and subsequent search were justified. Before the Illinois Supreme Court, defendant argues that the General Assembly's decision to decriminalize possession of small amounts of cannabis (instead recognizing it as a civil violation subject only to a fine) necessarily should alter prior precedent that deemed an officer's perception of an odor of raw cannabis gave him or her probable cause for Fourth Amendment purposes because it is no longer considered contraband. The State, in response, asserts that decriminalization is not synonymous with legalization: even possession of the small amounts of cannabis giving rise to only civil violations is still the legitimate object of a police search, as most jurisdictions with similar changes to state cannabis laws have held. In other words, cannabis remains "contraband" in this context. Moreover, because a significant number of cannabis-related activities remain unlawful, the odor of cannabis can still contribute to a probable cause determination under the totality of the circumstances. The State also offered two other alternative bases to uphold the search. One, here, the smell of cannabis plus additional circumstances provided probable cause. Two, even absent probable cause, the evidence should still not be suppressed under the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule.