Supreme Court Summaries
Opinions filed February 25, 2011
No. 109495 People v. Comage
Appellate citation: 395 Ill. App. 3d 560.
JUSTICE BURKE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.
Chief Justice Kilbride and Justice Theis concurred in the judgment and opinion.
Justice Freeman specially concurred, with opinion.
Justice Thomas dissented, with opinion, joined by Justices Garman and Karmeier.
In 2007, a Decatur police officer was investigating a reported gas station theft when he observed this defendant, who matched the description which had been given of the suspect. Defendant ran away, but the officer stopped him and asked for identification. A warrant check was run and backup arrived, but, while the officers were talking to the defendant, he began jumping around, fidgeting, and threatened to urinate on the squad car. He then took off running, and, while doing so, pulled out of his pocket two rod-like objects of five or six inches in length and threw them over a six-foot high wooden fence. He stopped 10 or 15 feet after throwing the objects, and, after he was secured, one of the officers went behind the fence and recovered a crack pipe and a “push rod,” or tool used to pack drugs into a pipe. Defendant was not charged in connection with the theft.
In the circuit court of Macon County, defendant was charged with unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia, obstruction of justice for concealing physical evidence, and resisting a peace officer. The unlawful possession charge was ultimately dismissed on double jeopardy grounds, and the State voluntarily dismissed the charge of resisting arrest.
At the defendant’s second jury trial for obstruction of justice, the first police officer testified that he located the items “20 seconds” after he went to look for them. Comage was found guilty of obstructing justice and received a three-year sentence. The appellate court affirmed.
In this appeal by the defendant, the Illinois Supreme Court addressed the issue of whether the physical evidence was “concealed” within the meaning of the statute on obstruction of justice when police knew where the evidence was and had no difficulty in quickly recovering it. The supreme court noted that courts have repeatedly rejected the proposition that temporarily removing contraband from the sight of police during pursuit or arrest is sufficient, by itself, to constitute concealment for purposes of statutes on obstruction of justice or tampering with evidence. The supreme court agreed with these authorities because the defendant here had not in fact materially impeded the officers’ investigation.
The appellate court’s affirmance of the conviction was reversed.
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