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Marijuana Odor Enough to Permit Vehicle SearchA couple of years ago, Illinois changed its Cannabis Control Act to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Possessing less than 10 grams of marijuana is a civil law violation, punishable by a fine of $100 to $200. The change decreases the number of people who may face misdemeanor drug possession charges for what is a minor offense. However, decriminalization is not the same as legalization, a fact that recently prevented an Illinois defendant from suppressing evidence in a criminal case.

Recent Case

In People v. Rice, the defendant was charged, convicted and sentenced to 11 years in prison for possession of a controlled substance. A police officer had stopped the defendant’s vehicle for speeding and decided to conduct a search because he smelt burnt cannabis. During the search, police allegedly found:

  • A small bag containing marijuana on the defendant;
  • Two sealed envelopes containing $37,000 in the vehicle; and
  • A box that contained 1,300 methamphetamine pills.

Probable Cause

The defendant argued that the evidence from the police search should be suppressed because the scent of marijuana did not give the officer probable cause to conduct a search. He cited the change to Illinois law that decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana and a Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling. Massachusetts voters had passed a referendum that decriminalized the possession of one ounce or less of marijuana. The Massachusetts court determined that the scent of marijuana was no longer enough evidence of criminal activity to conduct a search because the amount that the suspect possesses may not be a criminal offense.

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dui, Crystal Lake Criminal Defense Lawyer, search. traffic stop, mchenry county attorney, law firmIf you get pulled over and arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) in Crystal Lake, you will need the help of a DUI defense attorney. However, in the moment of the traffic stop, it is important to remember several things to prevent making a mistake or saying something that can be used against you later on.

Police Officers are Under a Lot of Stress

When they start making a traffic stop, police officers do not have a full understanding of what is going on. During training, police officers frequently hear harrowing statistics about fatalities during routine stops; 62 officers were killed during traffic stops between 2003 and 2012. It is important to remember that no matter how frustrated you are when you get pulled over, the police officer coming to your driver's side window does not know if you are waiting with a weapon. Making it exceptionally clear that you have no intention of hurting anyone is important. Keeping your hands on the wheel, in plain view, and not making any sudden moves can go a long way in putting the police officer at ease, which can make the whole situation much less intense.

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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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racial profiling by Illinois policeGetting pulled over by a police officer can be a stressful event. There is the unknown of what—if any—traffic laws you may have violated and the unknown of whether the officer will be friendly or hostile. Traffic stops can be all the more disconcerting if you are pulled over knowing that you did not violate any traffic laws and an officer searches your vehicle.

Racial Bias When Searching a Vehicle?

According to a recent report by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Illinois, police officers are more likely to stop and search black and Hispanic drivers than white drivers. The ACLU of Illinois found that “there is a dramatic racial disparity in police use of so-called ‘consent searches' and dog sniff searches during routine traffic stops.”

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