Two-Part Standard Of Review For Suppression Of Evidence In Entry And Detainer Case

Michael Head, a resident at a public housing apartment in Chicago, was arrested for possession of marijuana. His apartment lease prohibited him from participating in illegal drug-related activity. The Chicago Housing Authority was allowed to terminate the lease if Head was in violation.

The police took the evidence against Head illegally, so the State eventually dropped the charge. But the property management company filed suit against Head for possession of the apartment under the Illinois Forcible Entry and Detainer Act. Head countered by asking the court to suppress the evidence of his alleged crime under the exclusionary rule [illegally obtained evidence can’t be used]. He also asked the trial court to dismiss the property manager’s case.

The trial court agreed with Head. The court suppressed the illegally obtained evidence. Without that evidence, the management company could not prove its case, so the court dismissed.

The management company appealed, and argued that the evidence should not have been suppressed. The court identified the standard of review for suppression of evidence.

In reviewing an appeal from a circuit court’s ruling on a motion to suppress, we apply a two-part standard of review … First, the circuit court’s factual findings are reviewed for clear error and will only be reversed if they are against the manifest weight of the evidence … Second, the circuit court’s ultimate decision as to whether suppression is warranted is reviewed de novo … In this case, neither party challenges any of the circuit court’s factual determinations. Accordingly, the sole issue before this court is plaintiff’s legal challenge to the circuit court’s application of the exclusionary rule, which we review de novo.

These kinds of definitions are confusing. The first part of the test is for “clear error” only to be reversed if against the manifest weight of the evidence. So which is it? Clear error or manifest weight?

In either event, the First District Illinois Court of Appeals in this case ruled the evidence should not have been suppressed, and the case should not have been dismissed. Read the whole case, U.S. Residential Management and Development v. Head, No. 1-08-3531 (12/18/09), by clicking here.

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