Fourth Amendment in Chicago: Pat-Down and Reasonable Grounds

tim-graf-202490-copy-300x200The 7th circuit appeal court has just considered the case of Joseph Doornbos. This case highlights some of the important things for residents of Chicago to consider when they are stopped and searched. It specifically looks at pat-downs and whether the police have to have reasonable grounds for suspicion before they act.

In this case, the search was done by law enforcement agents that were not in uniform (plain clothes agents). They confronted the suspect and tackled him to the ground as he was leaving a train station. Later on, they charged him with resisting an arrest, but he was acquitted on that charge.

The Issues of the Case

  • Were the applicant’s Fourth Amendment Rights violated?
  • Was the force used excessive or reasonable?
  • Do the Chicago police agents have to have reasonable and well-founded suspicions to do a pat-down search?
  • Was the original charge of resisting arrest a case of malicious prosecution?
  • Were police officers required to formally identify themselves before doing a pat-down search? The person that had been arrested had filed a lawsuit against the officers that arrested him. The suit was dismissed by a jury. This was after the trial judge admitted evidence that the defendant indeed had marijuana in his possession at the time of the arrest.

Findings of the Appeal Court

The following were the key findings:

  • The evidence of marijuana (a controlled substance) was allowed in court. It corroborated the accounts of the arresting offices. It also confirmed that their instincts were right.
  • Arresting officers must have reasonable grounds before they do a pat-down or frisking procedure. They cannot randomly select people or target those they do not like.
  • Police officers are required to identify themselves before making an arrest. This is a formal and significant requirement. It can only be avoided in unusual situations such as imminent terrorist activity.
  • Errors in the arresting procedures are not harmless. The courts may set aside the original judgment if the police did not follow procedures. As it happened, the case was reset for a new trial because of the mistakes that the officers had made.

Meanings and Implications for Other Defendants

It is a violation of your Fourth Amendment rights in Chicago if a law enforcement officer targets you for searches or frisking without any reasonable grounds. This is even more serious if they are targeting you for prejudiced reasons such as racism. Officers are required to identify themselves as such and give you reasons for the arrest. Once they have identified themselves, you are supposed to cooperate with the police. Do not resist arrest or try to fight the police officers.


On the other hand, if the arrest happens and there was a problem with the procedure, the courts can still order a new trial if you are found to have a controlled substance. In this case, the charges will focus on your possession of banned substances. This is rather than the fact that you resisted arrest or queried the arresting procedure. Of course, most police follow the right procedures. The law will protect them. But, you can always appeal if you are not satisfied with the rulings of the trial court.

What You Should do Next

Always make sure that your rights are not being violated when you are being arrested. Be calm but ensure that you challenge instances of police abuse. Report to your lawyers and the police complaints commission if this happens. If you have been in similar or identical situations like the ones described above, please contact David Freidberg Attorney at Law at telephone number 312-560-7100 for further guidance and assistance.

(image courtesy of Tim Graf)

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