Marijuana Possession During a Traffic Stop in Chicago

esteban-lopez-234052-copy-300x200In June of 2018, Chicago police discovered over 1,500 pounds of marijuana during a traffic stop. The street value of the drugs is just over $10 million. The use of a drug dog from the narcotics unit helped police make this discovery.

The vehicle was stopped for suspicion of trafficking narcotics, which is why the drug dog was on hand. The drugs were en route to Chicago from California. The driver was charged with possession of over 5,000 grams of cannabis. Now, many people are raising issue with the legitimacy of the traffic stop.

The Issue

This traffic stop is raising issues about the rights of the police. Was the traffic stop lawful? What evidence did they have to suspect the vehicle of drug trafficking? Would it be considered harassment if the driver was not in possession of the drugs? None of these case-specific questions currently have answers.

However, there are other cases and laws that can help answer these concerns in a general way. Knowing the law can help you know if and when you are unlawfully stopped or harassed. This information can also help your case if you were charged with drug possession after a traffic stop.

The Law

To search a vehicle in the state of Illinois, police must have probable cause or a warrant. It is unclear if the officers possessed the necessary information in this case. Most likely, the vehicle was reported as being involved in a drug purchase. However, the officers could have suspected the vehicle for other reasons that were unlawful.

Here are a few examples of reasonable cause that would permit officers to perform a search of your vehicle:

  • Informant tips
  • Police investigation
  • The smell of drugs
  • The smell of alcohol
  • Leaving the scene of a crime

These are just a few examples of reasonable cause. Officers may also legally perform a plain view search, which means they can look into your windows when you are pulled over. If they observe an object that is illegal, they have probable cause to search the vehicle.

Your Rights

There are several important rights that you have to keep in mind when being pulled over to help you from incriminating yourself and to keep police from harassing you.

You have the right to remain silent

You do not have to answer if a police officer asks you how fast you were going, if you have been drinking, or if you have drugs in the car. These are leading questions that can result in self-incrimination. Simply inform the officer that you are enacting your right to remain silent if you choose not to answer the question.

You have the right to withhold consent for a search

If an officer asks to search your vehicle, you have the right to decline. Police need a warrant or reasonable cause to search any of your personal property. If they do not have this, they may ask for your permission. You can decline, and they will not be allowed to search your vehicle, which can help prevent unreasonable searches and harassment.

You have the right to challenge reason

There are two types of reason that you can challenge during a traffic stop. First, you can challenge the stop itself. If you were not breaking any traffic law, inform the officer that you challenge the legitimacy of the stop. It may not make the officer leave you alone, but it could help you in the long run. You can also challenge searches, as mentioned above.

If you have been charged with a crime after being pulled over, you need a criminal defense lawyer. Call us at 312-560-7100 for a free consultation. David Freidberg, Attorney at Law, can help you win your case or reduce your sentence.

(image courtesy of Esteban Lopez)