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K-9 Units Less Reliable Than Police BelieveMany police departments have trained K-9 units that alert them to the presence of illegal drugs. In Illinois, dogs are trained to conduct sniff searches for heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and cannabis and to give the handler a response when there is a hit. Courts have ruled that using a K-9 unit is not an unreasonable search under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and can create probable cause to conduct a further search for the illegal substances. However, studies show a significant rate of false alerts by K-9 units, which creates doubt about whether an alert from a dog should be enough evidence to allow a police search.

Problem with K-9 Units

Illinois requires dogs in K-9 units to be retested annually to ensure that they are accurate in detecting illegal substances. However, handlers are part of the cause of false alerts in some cases. Dogs are eager to please their handlers and able to pick up on unintentional body language. When a handler is suspicious of a package or vehicle, the dog may give a positive alert in order to affirm that suspicion. The handler can also train the dog to give false alerts by giving it a treat only when it alerts the handler. Despite this potential bias during drug searches, many police departments have not trained their K-9 units to ignore unintentional cues from their handlers.

Court Rulings

The U.S. Supreme Court has consistently trusted the accuracy of K-9 unit searches and considered them unobtrusive in most cases:

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Required Proof for a Juvenile Drug Possession ConvictionTeenagers sometimes give in to the temptation of experimenting with illegal drugs. While teens may see no harm in trying drugs, being caught in possession of drugs has serious consequences. Your teen may not face the same jail sentence that an adult offender may receive. Courts focus on rehabilitation for juveniles who commit nonviolent crimes. However, a drug offense can limit some of the opportunities available to your teen. For instance, a person convicted of drug possession for the first time cannot receive government student aid for one year. Teens may also face discipline at school and difficulty getting into the college of their choice. Your teen may be able to avoid a costly drug conviction if your defense attorney can show that the circumstances did not meet the legal definition of drug possession.

Knowledge

Prosecutors must prove that the person charged with drug possession knew that they were in possession of an illegal drug. Saying that the teen did not know it was an illegal substance may not be a valid defense depending on the circumstances. Teens can be guilty of drug possession if it is reasonable to believe that they knew they were in possession of an illegal drug. Circumstances may include:

  • How the teen came into possession of the substance;
  • Who gave the drugs; or
  • Whether the substance looks like drugs.

A judge will have difficulty believing that a teen did not know that a leafy substance, powder, or pills were drugs. It is a different matter if the drugs were hidden or disguised and the teen honestly did not understand the situation.

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All Forms of Synthetic Cannabis May Soon Be Illegal in IllinoisFour people in Illinois have died and several others have been hospitalized in recent weeks due to adverse reactions after consuming synthetic cannabis. The substance, branded with names such as Spice and K2, caused internal bleeding in some of the people who used it, which police suspect was because it contained rat poison. In response, the Illinois Senate quickly approved a bill that would make all forms of synthetic cannabis illegal. The Illinois House of Representatives will now take up the bill. Lawmakers hope the legislation will close a loophole that has allowed synthetic cannabis to be sold in convenience stores.

What Is Synthetic Cannabis?

Synthetic cannabis is a plant that has been sprayed with an artificial cannabinoid meant to reproduce the effect of THC in cannabis. The product can come in solid or liquid form for the purpose of being smoked. Marijuana users are attracted to the product because it:

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They Are Not Your Drugs … Or Are They?, drug crime, criminal defense, drug posessionLaw enforcement officers stop you while you are driving on your way home or while you are walking around town. Before you know it, police have searched your person or your vehicle and discovered illegal drugs. When the officer holds up the baggie or container, your first response may be to say, “These drugs are not mine – I'm holding them for a friend (or family member).” Not only are law enforcement officers not likely to believe you – this is an excuse they have likely heard hundreds of times in their careers by individuals in a similar predicament as yourself – it also may not even matter if your statement is factually accurate. Here's why:

“Possession” of Drugs Does Not Necessarily Mean Ownership

Illinois law prohibits individuals from “possessing” illegal or prohibited drugs. Many individuals erroneously believe that they are not able to “possess” drugs if the drugs do not belong to them. However, the verb “possess” in the context of a drug crime has a very specific meaning: more specifically, it is possible to “possess” drugs if the drugs are found on your person or if they are in an area that is subject to your control. Carrying prohibited drugs in your pocket constitutes “possession,” as may driving a car with drugs in your vehicle's center console or cup holder. Even if the drugs were “owned” by another person for whom you were holding them, this does not negate the fact that you were found in “possession” of the drugs. What is more, the law does not prohibit multiple individuals from possessing the same drugs at the same moment.

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Illinois constructive possession, Crystal Lake Criminal Defense AttorneyThere is little confusion when a person is charged with a drug offense for possession or distribution when he or she is caught with the drugs in hand. However, confusion may arise as to how a person can be arrested and charged with possession when the drugs were found near the individual, in his or her house or car, or even when the person did not have any idea that the drugs were there. This charge can be sustained through what is legally known as constructive possession.

In order to get a conviction against a defendant for constructive possession of a controlled substance, such as cocaine, the prosecution has to prove that the defendant knew the drugs were in the location they were found, and that the defendant exercised immediate and exclusive control over the area where the contraband was found.

The knowledge element is usually proven by considering the defendant's actions as well as his or her words. Therefore, if the police see a person running from an area that is later found to contain drugs, this may be used as evidence that the person knew the drugs were there. However, running away alone is not conclusive evidence, and has to be considered in light of other factors.

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