N.D.Ill.: Anticipatory seatbelt violation stop was reasonable and led to valid admission of gun

Stopping car at the scene of a shooting 90 minutes earlier because more people piled in than there were seatbelts for was reasonable. [An anticipatory stop on reasonable suspicion a traffic offense was about to happen. The stop was clearly pretext to check into the shooting, but it did not matter.] Defendant admitted having a gun, and that led to a search. The seatbelt violation alone wouldn’t have supported it. United States v. Avriett, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 217417 (N.D. Ind. Nov. 20, 2020)

The seatbelt statute prohibits an officer from “search[ing] or inspect[ing]” a passenger “solely because of a violation of this Section.” 625 ILCS § 5/12-603.1(f). But whether a search is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment “has never ‘depend[ed] on the law of the particular State in which the search occurs.'” Virginia v. Moore, 553 U.S. 164, 172 (2008) (quoting California v. Greenwood, 486 U.S. 35 (1988)); see also United States v. Simon, 937 F.3d 820, 834 (7th Cir. 2019), cert. denied, 140 S. Ct. 824 (2020) (“Illinois law does not control the Fourth Amendment.”). Moreover, the search here was not solely because of the seatbelt violation; the search occurred because Avriett said he had a weapon.

In sum, the motivation behind the officers’ initial detention of Avriett (and the others in the car) was to investigate the shooting, although they did not have individualized suspicion of Avriett’s involvement in it. Nevertheless, the officers had reasonable suspicion that someone in the car was about to commit a seatbelt violation; this justified the stop and the order to exit the car. Under the circumstances, it was appropriate to ask Avriett if he had a weapon, and once he admitted that he did, it was reasonable to frisk him. The gun and the evidence derived from it were the products of a constitutional search.

Defendant’s motion to suppress [25] is denied.

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