Fourth Amendment Prevents Search if an Arrest is Not Imminent

On March 23, 2010, two officers of the Chicago Police Department flagged down two men who appeared panicked.  One of the men told the officers that a Hispanic man wearing a white tank top had just fired a gun at him. The man directed the police officers to an alley in which the shooting occurred. 

As the officers drove down the alley, they noticed that the door to Juan Castillo’s garage was open;  two Hispanic men and a white man were standing inside.  The men were ordered to step out of the garage and place their hands on the squad car.  They complied and the two officers searched the garage.  One of the officers testified at trial that the search was brief.  Both officers were looking for a place where a gun could easily and quickly be hidden.  One of the officers opened a closed cooler and found a .38 caliber handgun with a spent shell casing and two live rounds.  The officers detained Castillo, and he was identified by the two men who had approached the officers as the man who shot at them. 

Castillo testified that the officers came into the garage uninvited.  He stated that they showed neither an arrest nor a search warrant and that he never gave them permission to either enter or search the garage.  He testified that they entered and  began opening drawers and cabinets and had to take several items off of the cooler before they could open it to see what was inside it.

At trial, Castillo objected to the gun being entered into evidence.  He argued that it was in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights of unreasonable search and seizure.  Castillo moved to quash the arrest and suppress the evidence of the gun.  The trial court denied the motion. 

Castillo was found guilty and sentenced to 18 years in prison.  He appealed.  On appeal, the appellate court noted that since Castillo and his two companions were ordered out of the garage with their hands placed on the squad car, patted down and no weapons were found on them and the officers searched the garage, the immediacy of the situation by that time had been extinguished.  The appeals panel also considered and rejected the idea that the search was justified and either needed to make the arrest or a protective sweep. The panel also ruled that the cooler was clearly outside of Castillo’s control when the search was conducted and that it could not have been incidental to the arrest because Castillo was outside of the garage on the police officers’ orders when he was arrested.

The court also found that Castillo was not in immediate control of the cooler;  thus, to allow searches of vehicles in roadside stops was not applicable in this case.

Castillo’s conviction was overturned.  The motion to quash the arrest and suppress the evidence order was also granted and the case was returned to the trial court for a new trial without double-jeopardy at risk.

State of Illinois v. Juan Castillo, No. 2014 IL App (1st) 113009-U.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling trial matters for individuals and families for more than 38 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Chicago (Andersonville, Archer Heights, Bronzeville, Chinatown, Garfield Ridge, Hyde Park, Jackson Park, Lincoln Square, Norwood Park, Old Town, Pullman), Algonquin, Bloomingdale, Des Plaines, Crystal Lake, St. Charles, Forest Park, Homewood, Alsip and Richton Park, Ill.

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