People v. GaytanAnnotate this Case
Gaytan was a passenger in a car that had a rear-mounted, ball-type trailer hitch. Police officers stopped the car, believing that the trailer hitch obstructed the vehicle’s license plate in violation of the Illinois Vehicle Code (625 ILCS 5/3-413(b)). When the driver of rolled down her window, the officers detected an odor of cannabis. A subsequent search of the car revealed a diaper bag containing cannabis, which the driver indicated belonged to Gaytan, who nodded in agreement that it was his. The officers then arrested Gaytan for unlawful possession of cannabis with intent to deliver (720 ILCS 550/5(d). The circuit court of McLean County denied a motion to suppress evidence in which Gaytan argued that the trailer hitch was not prohibited and, therefore, the officers had no reasonable, articulable suspicion that an offense was being committed when they stopped the car. The appellate court reversed Gaytan’s conviction. The Illinois Supreme Court reinstated the convictions. Although precedent indicated that section 3-413(b) prohibits only those materials which are attached to a license plate the statute is ambiguous. Under the circumstances of this case, it was objectively reasonable for the officers to have believed that the trailer hitch violated the statute.