In re K.M., 2019 IL App (1st) 172322 (February). Episode 595 (Duration 13:05)

Police entered onto private property without a warrant to retrieve stolen property, the fallout is widespread.

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Anonymous Call

Sauk Village Police Department received an anonymous call on, around 12:18 p.m. from an individual who reported seeing people enter the residence at 22438 Yates Avenue, with items, particularly a television.

The caller called multiple times during the investigation directing the police to 22438 Yates Avenue.

The police department opened a burglary investigation.

The Search But No Seizure

Police arrive and conduct a search of the area surrounding the residence including the garbage cans located on the driveway and the detached garage.

The garbage can was not covered with a lid.

Home Owner Finally Called

That same afternoon, Sauk Village police received another call reporting a burglary.

The caller stated that he had returned home and discovered computer accessories, personal documents, and a large flat-screen television were missing. The items taken were documents including a passport, bank statements, a black television, a black laptop, and a black external hard drive. 

Back To The Garbage Cans

According to police, the garbage was full, but they could identify documents in the garbage that belonged to the victim. The officer did not have to manipulate the garbage in any way to see the victim’s name on the documents.

Police immediately could see a garbage can with a black box on top of the garbage can. They opened the black box and found the victim’s passport and documents with the victim’s address inside the black box. 

Into The Detached Garage

The officers then returned to the garage and found items matching the description of the stolen items. They entered through an open side door.

 Once inside, they spotted a black laptop with an external hard drive in the rafters of the garage. An officer retrieved the laptop and the hard drive before attempting to make contact with the people inside the residence.

Now To The House Itself

They removed these items from the garage and knocked on the door of the residence. No one answered the door; however, the detective noticed people peeking out of the window. A short time later another person arrived at the residence and then alerted the owner of the home, who arrived at the residence shortly after.

This lady was the mother.

Officers explained their presence at her house. Mom then entered the home. She returned to the outside carrying a large flat-screen television. She also brought outside K.M. and two other individuals from inside the house.

Immediately Arrested

The detective testified that they then arrested K.M. based on the totality of the circumstances, the residential burglary report that they had, the description provided by the anonymous caller, and the items recovered.

What description?

At no point did the officers obtain a search warrant or an arrest warrant.

The detective and the officers stayed outside and never went into the home.

Mom’s Testimony

She is K.M.’s mother, she lived at 22438 Yates.

She lived with her brother, six children, and her niece. Her yard was fully enclosed by a fence, including the garage and the area next to the driveway where her garbage cans are located.

When the police first arrived at her home, she was in South Holland that morning with her friend. A detective called her over the phone, and he stated that there were burglary suspects inside of her home and told her to come home in 10 to 15 minutes or else he would kick in her door.

When she arrived, she spoke with the officers outside of her home but she denied giving the officers consent to search her property.

Issue

On appeal, K.M. argues that the trial court erred when it denied his motion to suppress both physical evidence and his custodial statement because they were obtained as a direct result of an illegal search. K.M. contends that his arrest was due to law enforcement’s exploitation of illegally obtained evidence.

Specifically, he asserts that Mom’s delivery of the television, his arrest, and his confession were fruits of an illegal search.

State Concedes Some Illegality

The State does not dispute that the search of the property was an illegal search of the curtilage of the home.

The State argues, however, that the arrest was proper because the officers had independent probable cause to believe that a crime had been committed by someone in the house prior to any illegal search. Alternatively, the State argues that Mom was not induced to produce the television because of the illegally seized evidence obtained by the police.

The Fourth Amendment

The fourth amendment of the United States Constitution ensures the “right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” U.S. Const., amend. IV; see also Elkins v. United States, 364 U.S. 206, 213 (1960) (noting that the fourth amendment applies to state officials through the fourteenth amendment).

The amendment protects individuals and not specific locations.

See Also These Property Based Cases

Episode 501 – Collins v. Virginia, SCOTUS (May 2018) (police need a warrant to search a vehicle on private property)

Episode 552 – People v. Bonilla, 2018 IL 122484 (October) (constitutional violation did not depend on whether the common door to the apartment was locked)

Episodes 464 – Florida v. Jardines, 133 S. Ct. at 1409 (2013) (police can’t bring a police dog to your front stoop for a sniff without a warrant)

Was There Independent Probable Cause?

The State posits there was enough information to satisfy the probable cause requirement because the victim’s phone call corroborated the anonymous call that a burglary had occurred and K.M. matched the anonymous caller’s description.

Probable cause exists when the facts known to the officer at the time of the arrest are sufficient for a reasonably cautious person to believe that the arrestee has committed a crime. People v. Wear, 229 Ill. 2d 545, 563-64 (2008). The existence of probable cause depends upon the totality of the circumstances at the time of the arrest.

The court deals with probability when assessing probable cause.

Probable Cause From An Anonymous Tip

In the context of tips forming the basis for probable cause, a reviewing court considers the informant’s “veracity, reliability, and basis of knowledge.” People v. Sparks, 315 Ill. App. 3d 786, 792 (2000). The anonymous tip must provide some indicia of reliability; otherwise the police officers are forced to conduct additional investigation to verify the information or may not respond to the tip.

Ordinarily, information from a “concerned citizen” is considered more credible than information from a paid informant or a person who provided information for personal gain. People v. Linley, 388 Ill. App. 3d 747, 750 (2009).

The State asks us to assume that the tipster called the 911 dispatch system and thus the caller had some indicia of reliability. However, there is no evidence in the record indicating that the tipster contacted the police through an emergency number. Furthermore, the tipster did not provide a name and therefore must be treated as anonymous.

Was There Sufficient Corroboration?

Thus, the tipster’s “reliability hinges on the existence of corroborative details observed by the police.”

Here, the anonymous caller only relayed to the police that they saw people entering the residence of 22438 Yates Avenue carrying items such as a television. Nothing in the record suggested that the caller observed these people participate in any unlawful conduct. In fact, it could appear that the people entering into the house were engaging in innocuous behavior.

There was no indication what-so-ever that the television was stolen.

Furthermore, there is no evidence that any effort was made to verify the anonymous tip before the officers attempted to contact the residents of 22438 Yates Avenue. The officers never observed anyone engaged in criminal activity to corroborate the phone call. In fact, the officers did not even see K.M. until they arrested him.

Therefore, we find that the tip was uncorroborated and unreliable.

See Also Recent Anonymous Tip Cases

Episode 549 – People v. Lopez, 2018 IL App (1st) 153331 (October) (caller only said the driver was “DUI” – what the heck is that?)

Episode 101 – Navarette v. California, 134 S.Ct 1683 (2014) (April) (almost driving the caller off the rode justified a traffic stop)

468 – People v. Meo, 2018 IL App (2d) 170135 (March) (Citizen’s Tip That Driver Almost Hit The Building Justifies Investigatory Stop For DUI)

But The Caller Said His TV Was Gone

Other than the unverified call that did not report a crime, the only information provided was the victim’s call, and this evidence is insufficient to establish probable cause to arrest K.M.

We find the detective’s testimony, that the officers arrested K.M. “based on the totality of the circumstances, the residential burglary report that they had, the description provided by the anonymous caller, and the items recovered,” telling as to whether the officers had independent probable cause.

His testimony is contrary to the State’s position and indicates that the items recovered from the garage and the garbage were indeed a factor in this case.

Accordingly, we find that the State did not have independent probable cause to arrest K.M. on his porch.

Was There Sufficient Attenuation?

Having found that no independent probable cause existed to arrest K.M., we now determine whether Mom’s delivery of the television, K.M.’s arrest, and K.M.’s subsequent confession were attenuated from the initial illegal search.

“The fruit-of-the-poisonous tree doctrine is an outgrowth of the exclusionary rule providing that ‘the fourth amendment violation is deemed the “poisonous tree,” and any evidence obtained by exploiting that violation is subject to suppression as the “fruit” of that poisonous tree.’ ” People v. Burns, 2016 IL 118973, ¶ 47 (quoting People v. Henderson, 2013 IL 114040, ¶ 33).

Courts have recognized several exceptions to the exclusionary rule. See In re Jarrell C., 2017 IL App (1st) 170932, ¶ 24.

The Exceptions To The Exclusionary Rule

Those exceptions are

  • the independent source doctrine
  • the inevitable discovery doctrine and
  • the attenuation doctrine.

The exception at issue here is the attenuation doctrine, under which evidence challenged for a fourth amendment violation is admissible if the connection between the unconstitutional police conduct and the evidence is remote or has been interrupted by some intervening circumstances. Utah v. Strieff, 579 U.S. ___, ___, 136 S. Ct. 2056, 2061 (2016).

“The attenuation doctrine evaluates the causal link between the government’s unlawful act and the discovery of evidence, which often has nothing to do with a defendant’s actions.” Id. at ___, 136 S. Ct. at 2061.

Brown v. Illinois

Our inquiry is guided by the three factors articulated in Brown v. Illinois, 422 U.S. 590 (1975).

First, we consider the “temporal proximity” between the unconstitutional conduct and the discovery of evidence to determine how closely the discovery of evidence followed the unconstitutional search. 
Second, we examine “the presence of intervening circumstances.”
Third, we consider “the purpose and flagrancy of the official misconduct.”
Fourth, if a confession is being challenged, whether Miranda warnings were given.

The State argues that Mom’s conduct in producing the television was a voluntary act, free from any taint of the illegal search, and constituted an intervening circumstance that provided independent probable cause to seize the television. However, the record belies the State’s contention.

The record demonstrates that after the illegal search and the recovery of the victim’s documents and computer accessories, the detective’s discussion with Mom on the phone prompted her return home. Upon her return, he then explained to her in person the “situation and case status.” The police never broke the causal connection between their illegal search and obtaining the television.

The officers never left K.M.’s property, which demonstrates that the taint of the unconstitutional conduct was ongoing at the time that the police made contact with Mom. Any contact with Campbell during that timeframe was sufficiently a part of the taint including her delivery of the television.

Holding

We conclude that there was no independent intervening event that broke the causal chain between the illegal search and the discovery of the television. Here, the police officers illegally searched the curtilage of K.M.’s home twice in a short time span. There was no warrant authorization to search nor was there any indication of circumstances justifying an exception to the search warrant requirement.

The police only attempted to contact Mom once they had recovered the items from the garage and garbage reported missing by the victim.

The police had no warrant or exigency to be on the property; thus any action the officers had on the property after the second call was akin to embarking “upon a course of illegal conduct in hope that some incriminating evidence *** might be found.” Jennings, 296 Ill. App. 3d at 765.

We determine that this factor weighs in favor of K.M.’s argument for suppression. Taken together, all the factors weigh in favor of suppressing the evidence.

We find that there was no attenuation between the illegal search of property, the officers obtaining the television, and K.M.’s arrest. As such, we hold that the trial court erred in denying the motion for suppression as to the television and to quash K.M.’s subsequent arrest.

The record is silent as to, inter alia, K.M.’s testimony and circumstances around his confession. We cannot make an independent determination of the admissibility of respondent’s confession. Therefore, we find it appropriate to remand the case for an attenuation hearing on this issue.

For the foregoing reasons, we reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand for further proceedings.