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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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Posted on in Vehicle Searches

police search primer, McHenry County criminal defense attorneyThe police in America often appear to wield an unchallengeable authority. However, the law in fact places numerous constraints on the police to protect the rights of citizens accused of crimes. One of the most important of these constraints comes from the Fourth Amendment, which protects citizens from “unreasonable” searches by police. This means that there are limits to the ability of the police to look through a person's things. The full extent of the rules on when police may search are complex, but a short primer can help people more fully exercise their rights. The general rule is that police must have a warrant to perform a search, but there are important exceptions to this rule.

The Need for Warrants

The key point of the Fourth Amendment is that police must have a warrant to in order to perform a search. A warrant is a legal document provided by a judge that gives the police a right to enter a specific place in order to look for a specific item. In order to get a warrant, the police must demonstrate that there is “probable cause” to believe that a search will turn up evidence of a crime. If the officers can convince a judge of that, then they will receive a warrant, and they can search the premises.

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