Supreme Court Summaries

Opinions filed April 18, 2013



People v. Colyar, 2013 IL 111835

Appellate citation: 407 Ill. App. 3d 294.


      CHIEF JUSTICE KILBRIDE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

      Justices Garman, Karmeier, and Theis concurred in the judgment and opinion.

      Justice Thomas specially concurred, with opinion.

      Justice Burke dissented, with opinion, joined by Justice Freeman.


      This criminal case comes before the Illinois Supreme Court on the State’s appeal from a suppression of evidence. No trial has occurred.

      Multiple weapons charges were filed against this Cook County defendant as a result of a 2006 incident in Homewood. The vehicle which the defendant was driving was seen at dusk parked with the engine running in the center of the entrance to a motel parking lot, blocking it. Two officers parked their squad car some distance away and approached on foot to speak with the driver and saw, in plain view in the center console, a plastic bag with a bullet sticking up inside. The bullet was variously described as a large pistol round, approximately three inches long, almost as large as a rifle round.

      Colyar and his two passengers were ordered out of the car and handcuffed, while the removal of the plastic bag from the console revealed a total of five live rounds of .454 Casull ammunition. A pat-down search of the defendant yielded another bullet on his person, and a .454 Ruger revolver was found under a front floor mat. All three men were arrested.

      Colyar claimed his fourth amendment rights had been violated and filed a pretrial motion to suppress all the recovered evidence. The circuit court granted the motion. The appellate court affirmed, opining the bullet that was originally seen did not establish evidence of a crime and there had been an unlawful search without probable cause. In this decision, the supreme court reversed both courts below.

      The question in this appeal is the propriety of the police conduct after observing the bullet in plain view. The supreme court held that the officers, having first seen the bullet, were justified in acting as they did out of a reasonable concern for their own safety. Probable cause was not required. There was no requirement that they inquire whether the defendant had a valid FOID card before conducting the protective searches that subsequently took place. The bullets and handgun are admissible as evidence and should not have been suppressed.