Search and Seizure Procedures in Chicago

Pipes_01-1-300x200Broadly speaking, the law in Chicago gives the police power to search and seize items if and when they suspect that those items are relevant to the commission or investigation of a crime. However, some law enforcement agencies have abused this power resulting in the interventions of senior courts to determine what constitutes a legal search and seizure in Chicago. Defense attorneys may find themselves in a position where they are effectively prosecuting the law enforcement agencies for breaking the law. Typically, these complexities arise in the midst drug-related cases.

The Interplay Between Constitutional and Criminal Law

The Fourth Amendment has guaranteed Americans the right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure. However, that tends to focus more on the federal government overreach. Of course, there are those that push the law to its very limit by insisting that they are able to occupy public property without intervention from the state. That is why the law always includes a caveat of reasonableness which is open to interpretation and definition by the courts. The Fourth Amendment does not cover seizure by private individuals and therefore anyone that engages in this type of activity on their own authority is bound to encounter serious legal problems.

When a defendant wishes to use the illegal search as a defense, he or she must engage in a specific procedure that is known as a State Action. Before that, he or she must convince the court that he or she has standing to bring the case. That essentially means that in the circumstances, he or she should have reasonably expected privacy. This is an important caveat that ensures that law enforcement agencies can search and seize items during the course of investigations without being subjected to vexatious lawsuits. A case in point was California v. Greenwood (486 U.S. 35 1988), where it was found that trash cans that are left on the street for collection can not give rise to a reasonable expectation of privacy.

Where the Police Oversteps the Mark

It is recognized in Chicago law and federal law that there are instances in which law enforcement agencies will go overboard in their investigations. For this reason there are certain provisions that make it difficult or not worthwhile for police to gather evidence using illegal means. For example, the principle of suppression applies to tainted evidence and it is quite capable of overturning serious criminal cases based on technicalities. The prosecutor is loath to lose cases in such a manner and will do everything in his or her power to ensure that the proper procedures are followed. The defense attorneys will often make reference to the Exclusionary Rule in order to thwart the prosecutorial overtures.

This is a complex area of the law by virtue of the fact that it touches on many issues of discovery and procedure. For example the issue of search warrants and their impact will be explored extensively during the case. In Franks v. Delaware (438 U.S. 154, 98 S. Ct. 2674, 57 L.Ed2d 667 1978), it was held that search warrants obtained through false affidavits can taint the items that are subsequently seized on the authority of that warrant. The scene of the search may also prove to be critical. For example, in Delaware v. Prouse (440 U.S. 648, 99 S.Ct. 1391, 59 L.Ed.2d 660 1979) it was held that car searches can be tainted if the stopping was done for no good reason. Understandably the prosecuting authorities are sensitive about attacks on their competency. Therefore these challenges are vigorously examined under the court procedures. If you are looking for a professional and successful attorney to take your case, contact David Freidberg Attorney at Law today at 312-560-7100.


(image courtesy of Visitor7)

Contact Information