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Crystal Lake IL DUI defense attorneyGood citizens are everywhere, and they are called that because they are generally “good.” Their behaviors mean no harm but only to help the community or someone in need. Some are inclined to notify law enforcement when they witness what they believe to be a crime, and anonymous tips from these individuals pour into police stations regularly. A significant portion of these tips is from drivers or passengers on the roadway reporting someone who appears to be driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs.

What Do the Police Do With This Information?

If a tipster calls 911 to report an emergency, such as a drunk driver on the road, the operator will immediately begin to attempt to get as much information out of the informant as possible. The 911 center keeps a record of the call and can call the number back to obtain more information. This information alone is enough for police to stop a vehicle or driver matching the tipster’s description so that the officer can ask questions and gather more information.

Can an Officer Make an Arrest?

According to the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, an officer must have probable cause before making an arrest. One source of probable cause is an officer or an informant witnessing the suspicious behavior firsthand. Anonymous tips alone are not always sufficient to establish probable cause, as it can be difficult to determine the credibility of the source. For example, an anonymous informant may have a personal vendetta against the suspect, motivating them to make a false accusation.

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Crystal Lake illegal search defense attorneyIt is not uncommon to hear or read about a person who was arrested for drug possession or a similar crime after being stopped by police for a traffic violation. Situations such as these lead to an extremely important question: How does a traffic stop transform into a search that leads to the discovery of illegal drugs, guns, or other contraband? The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution addresses the rights of citizens regarding searches and seizures. However, the way in which the courts have interpreted the Fourth Amendment over the years has created a deal of confusion for many people.

The Fourth Amendment

The Fourth Amendment promises that the government—which means the police, by extension—shall not violate “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” It goes on to state, “No Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause,” and that a warrant must describe where the search is to take place, as well as the items or individuals that are expected to be seized.

Of course, when the Fourth Amendment was written in 1789, the automobile was still over 100 years away from being invented. As such, our founding fathers could not have foreseen such mobility for the average citizen. Because cars and trucks are so mobile, the warrant requirement is not exactly very conducive to the efforts of law enforcement, which is why courts around the country have had to review cases of warrantless searches to set precedents that must be followed by law enforcement officers.

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Can the Police Search My Car Anytime They Want?In recent years, there has been a great deal of public debate about the power and authority given to police officers in various situations. Among these concerns is the issue of conducting a search for illicit drugs, unlawful weapons, or other illegal items. The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution promises American citizens the right to be free from “unreasonable searches and seizures” of their homes, papers, effects, and persons. The same amendment also specifies that all warrants must be based on probable cause and must describe in detail “the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.” If you are facing charges based on evidence found during an illegal or unreasonable search, an experienced criminal defense attorney could get the case against you dismissed.

Consent Trumps Everything Else

Most people will never have the police come to their house wanting to conduct a search. It is much more common, however, for such a situation to develop during a traffic stop. If you have been stopped by the police and the officer wants to search your vehicle, he or she will almost certainly start by asking for your permission. If the officer obtains your clear consent, the search becomes lawful, and you will no longer have the option of challenging the evidence based on an unreasonable search.

Keep in mind that the officer might not use the word “search” or even ask for your consent in a clear manner. He or she might say something to the effect of, “I’m sure you don’t mind if I take a quick look around, right?” As a citizen, you always have the right to refuse to consent when an officer asks to search your car. Refusing will not always prevent the search, but you will retain the ability to challenge the validity of the search later.

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Police Must Prove Probable Cause Before Obtaining WarrantIn order to conduct a search of a person or premises, police officers must obtain and present a valid warrant. A judge will issue a warrant based on the information presented in an affidavit from a police officer. The affidavit must show that there is probable cause to believe that criminal activity has taken place and that a search will turn up evidence of the crime. Even if a judge approves a warrant and police conduct a search, you can challenge that the warrant did not establish probable cause, which would allow you to suppress evidence from the search.

Establishing Probable Cause

A police affidavit must describe in detail what they are searching for and why they believe that a crime has been committed. For instance, a police officer can request a warrant to conduct a blood test based on evidence that they reasonably believe a driver is under the influence of alcohol. When requesting to search a private residence, the affidavit must show probable cause by:

  • Presenting objective evidence of criminal activity at the residence and involving the accused parties; and
  • Establishing the credibility of the source of that information.

A police officer who claims to have witnessed the alleged criminal activity is generally considered a reliable source, based on their experience in such cases. Other sources are less reliable, particularly when they are police informants who may be providing information in exchange for leniency on their own criminal charges.

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Posted on in Traffic Offenses

Indicators of Impairment: Part I, DUI, McHenry County DUI defense attorneys, traffic offenses, probable cause, indicators of impairmentA cornerstone principle of criminal law in Illinois is that an officer must have probable cause to believe a person has broken the law or is in the process of breaking the law before that person can be placed under arrest. This principle holds true in Illinois driving under the influence cases as well. Before placing a suspected drunk driver in handcuffs, the arresting officer must possess facts that would suggest to a reasonable person that the suspect has in fact been operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol. Many Illinois officers rely on the presence of one or more indicators or clues to support this probable cause finding.

Indicators of Intoxication While Driving

When asked for the facts or circumstances which justify the arrest of a suspected drunk driver, officers will routinely go back to indicators of impairment that the officer may have seen while the suspect was driving his or her vehicle. These indicators may include:

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