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Split Ruling Highlights Conditions and Cautions in Terry Stops

A divided appeals panel cited common sense and Constitutional scholarship in upholding the conviction of a Chicago man for unlawful use of a weapon. Steven Spain was collared in a Terry Stop by cops responding to reports of gang activity on a Canaryville street in 2016 and given a year behind bars after a Cook County judge agreed with prosecutors that Spain’s nervous demeanor provided  probable cause and reversed a motion to suppress the gun as evidence in the case. On appeal, Spain argued that cops had no reason to suspect he was armed and that they failed to ask whether he was licensed to carry the gun they found in a patdown as required by the state’s Concealed Carry Act.

In staying the conviction, judges Mary Mikva and John Griffin of the 1st District Appellate Court cited the work of a University of Illinois law professor that Spain’s keeping mum in the encounter gave cops reason to suspect he was acting unlawfully. Nevertheless, they said that failure to follow state law and request a license could negatively impact future challenges to stop-and-frisk arrests. Dissenting Justice Carl Walker said the majority contradicted both state and federal law, including the right to remain silent when confronted by police. He said the ruling opens the door to further litigation because the Concealed Carry Act makes plain that cops must request a license when executing warrantless searches.