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Illinois Supreme Court: Avoiding A Roadblock Is Suspicious
Illinois Supreme Court declares a legal maneuver to avoid a late-night roadblock suspicious.

Motorists who do not want to be detained and interrogated at a police roadblock will be pulled over by police for "suspicious behavior" under a ruling handed down last month by the Illinois Supreme Court. In a 5 to 1 decision, the justices upheld the conviction of Jacob D. Timmsen, who had been pulled over on December 17, 2011 solely because he made a U-turn to avoid an Illinois State Police roadblock.

Timmsen was headed toward Illinois on US Highway 136 when he saw the bright orange signs warning of a checkpoint ahead, and he did not want to participate. he decided to make a U-turn at a railroad crossing fifty feet from the roadblock entrance, using his turn signal before proceeding. Hancock County Deputy Travis Duffy was ready to pull Timmsen over after he performed the perfectly legal maneuver. As a result of the stop, Timmsen was busted for having less than a gram of marijuana and a suspended driver's license.

Timmsen appealed his conviction, which carried a ninety-day jail sentence, and the Illinois Appellate Court decided that the U-turn did not provide reasonable, articulable suspicion that Timmsen had committed any crime and that exercising one's "rights of personal liberty" should not be considered evidence of a criminal offense.

"The defendant's legal traffic maneuver only raised the suspicion that he was attempting to avoid contact with the police," the appellate panel reasoned. "Looking at the totality of the circumstances, we find there were no factors to suggest that the defendant was doing any more than going about his business."

The high court majority did not agree, insisting a U-turn was as suspicious and evasive as running away from police officers in a high-crime area. It was, the majority insisted, the opposite of going about one's business.

"Defendant's U-turn across railroad tracks just fifty feet before the roadblock is the type of evasive behavior that is a pertinent factor in determining reasonable suspicion," Justice Charles E. Freeman wrote for the majority. "The fact that the U-turn was made in the early morning hours of a weekend (1:15 am on a Saturday) indicates more of a probability of criminal behavior such as driving under the influence than does the same action at 8 am on a weekday... We conclude that when considering the totality of the circumstances -- the whole picture, Deputy Duffy had reasonable suspicion to conduct an investigatory stop."

The lone dissent came from Justice Anne M. Burke, who argued that under the Fourth Amendment, individuals are allowed to ignore a police officer who has no reason to believe they have done anything wrong. She also rejected the majority's insistence on the relevance of the roadblock taking place in the early morning hours.

"These factors cannot provide a basis for seizing defendant for the simple reason that a person's right to avoid an encounter with police cannot vary depending on the time of day or whether other people are also being stopped," Justice Burke wrote. "In sum, the only thing that occurred in this case is that defendant chose to avoid an encounter with the police, something he had the right to do."

A copy of the decision is available in a 110k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Illinois v. Timmsen (Illinois Supreme Court, 3/24/2016)

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