Police stop and search vehicles every day in Illinois. If your vehicle is stopped and searched by law enforcement, it may be difficult to determine whether or not your rights were violated. Vehicle stops and searches in Illinois are based on the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution, search warrants, and the plain view doctrine. Each stop, search, and encounter with law enforcement is unique and fact specific.
Lawful Vehicle Stops
A police officer may stop a car if they have reasonable articulable suspicion of criminal activity. For example, if an officer observes a driver violating a traffic law, they may lawfully stop the vehicle. Some law enforcement roadblocks, such as DUI checkpoints, may also constitute a lawful stop. If stopped, you are required by law to provide your driver’s license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance. However, the lawful stopping of a vehicle does not grant the officer an automatic right to search your vehicle. Without probable cause (subject to a few exceptions), the officer will need your express permission to search your car. Your permission must be voluntary, or without any type of coercion.
Your Rights Under the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution
The Fourth Amendment prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. Under the Fourth Amendment, a law enforcement search of your vehicle without a search warrant is unlawful. Search warrants are granted only on probable cause. However, there are exceptions to the search warrant requirement. The plain view doctrine is one such exception. Under the plain view doctrine, the vehicle stop must be lawful, the item seized must be in the ‘plain view’ of the officer—such as cocaine sitting on the dashboard, and the officer must have probable cause to believe the item is contraband and/or evidence of criminality. If the above three elements are present, then the search is lawful. Also, if you are lawfully arrested at the scene of the stop, the police may search the vehicle. Vehicles that are lawfully seized will also be subject to an inventory search.
Your Rights When Stopped by Law Enforcement
If you are stopped by law enforcement, always be polite and respectful. If the officer requests your permission to search your vehicle, you are never obliged to consent to that search. Be courteous, but clearly tell the officer that he does not have your permission to search your vehicle. If the officer continues to search your vehicle, even after you lawfully refused permission, that search may be found by the court to be unlawful.
Contact an Experienced Criminal Attorney
Vehicle stops and searches are complicated legal issues. If you believe your rights were violated, you need the help of an experienced criminal attorney. David Freidberg represents the interests of Chicago residents who have been charged with crimes. Call today at (312) 560-7100 to schedule an appointment, and we can begin preparing your defense right away.