Friday, June 1, 2012
People v. Mains and the community care taking exception
The 2nd District Appellate Court recently found in People v. Mains, 2012 IL App (2d)110262 that it was a valid use of the community caretaking exception when police stopped and questioned a motorist because his emergency flashers were on and he was fixing his engine.
In Mains, the defendant was experiencing difficulty driving on a highway and was going between 25-30 miles per hour with his emergency flashers activated. After defendant drove into a church parking lot and opened the hood to work on engine, officers arrived, activated emergency lights and took his name and birth date. Police subsequently discovered that defendant’s driver’s license was revoked and he was arrested. While the prosecution argued that the stop was constitutional under Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968) or as part of a community caretaking function, the trial court disagreed, quashing the arrest, while the state appealed.
A community caretaking exception applies “where (1) the officer is performing a function other than the investigation of a crime, and (2) the search or seizure was reasonable because it was undertaken to protect the safety of the general public.” People v.McDonough, 239 Ill. 2d 260, 269 (2010). The 2nd District found that both requirements were met in the instant case. Specifically, the appellate court cited the fact that defendant was driving well below speed limit, which could pose danger to other motorists. Additionally, the court held that asking for defendant's name and birth date was not initiating a criminal investigation. The court finally held that there was no need to determine whether it was acceptable under Terry.
For those interested, I have included two blurbs of cases cited in Mains for cases where the court also found a community care taking exception.
People v. Dittmar, 2011 IL App (2d)091112-“officer’s stop of the defendant was justified under the community caretaking exception because the defendant’s actions of pulling his vehicle to the side of the road and switching positions with the passenger gave the officer reason to believe that the defendant might need assistance due to a mechanical problem or other emergency” Mains at ¶ 14.
People v. Robinson, 368 Ill. App. 3d 963- “officer was engaged in community caretaking when, after rousing the unconscious defendant, he asked him to step out of his vehicle and to produce identification” Mains at ¶ 15.