Where police officers make a Terry stop, they may consider the level of criminal activity in the area as a factor in determining what constitutes reasonable suspicion.

The 1st District Appellate Court affirmed the decision of Cook County Associate Judge James M. Obbish.

At around 6:30 a.m. on Dec. 4, 2014, Chicago police officer Nick Beckman was on patrol in an unmarked police car in “a very high narcotic area.” Beckman noticed Patrick Hood sitting in the driver’s seat of a parked Pontiac Bonneville with two passengers and a man standing outside the vehicle.

As Beckman and his partner approached the car, the man standing beside the car shoved some money in his pocket and Hood was seen to reach toward the underside of his seat. Beckman found the behavior suspicious and became concerned for his safety, so he ran to the car and shone his flashlight into the vehicle.

Beckman stated that he saw Hood toss a handgun into a plastic bag and throw the bag in the back of the car. Beckman immediately opened the door and “took hold” of Hood. The car was immediately searched. The gun was recovered in the backseat, loaded with 11 rounds.

Hood was arrested and charged with multiple counts of unlawful use of a weapon and aggravated unlawful use of a weapon. He moved to quash the arrest and suppress evidence.

The circuit court denied the motion as well as his motion to reconsider. Following a trial, Hood was found guilty on eight counts which were merged into one unlawful use of a weapon conviction and sentenced to eight years in prison. Hood appealed.

On appeal, Hood argued that the trial court erred in finding that he was not the victim of an unlawful seizure when the officers pulled up, boxing in his vehicle without reasonable suspicion of criminal activity.

Hood also argued that possession of a firearm is not a crime and therefore cannot justify his arrest or the search of his vehicle. As such, Hood argued that the gun and his statement that he lacked a concealed carry license should be suppressed as the fruit of an unlawful search and seizure.

The appellate court disagreed, noting that the trial court found that Hood was not seized when Beckman approached, but engaged in a voluntary interaction with the police.

When one man put the money away suddenly and Hood made furtive motions, the officers exited the car to conduct a field interview. Hood testified that the officers all ran up to the car with guns drawn, but the officers’ testimony denies this and the trial court found the officers’ testimony to be credible.

Justice Carl Anthony Walker dissented, arguing that the police seized Hood with their initial approach, blocking him in and with guns drawn and that they used an unconstitutional standard by considering the amount of crime in the area to determine what constitutes reasonable suspicion of an individual.

In addition, Walker noted that Hood’s attorney never challenged the Terry stop as unconstitutional, just the seizure of the handgun. However, the majority found that the challenge to the seizure addressed both issues, amounting to effective assistance of counsel and that the officers had acted constitutionally.

As a result, the appellate court affirmed the trial court’s decision.

People v. Patrick Hood

2019 IL App (1st) 162194

Writing for the court: Justice John C. Griffin

Concurring: Justice Daniel J. Pierce

Dissenting: Justice Carl Anthony Walker