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When Can the Police Search My Car in Illinois?

Posted on in Vehicle Searches

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.

Probable Cause for Vehicle Searches

The police are allowed to search your car, but they cannot do so for no reason. The officer must have probable cause to believe that your vehicle is or has been involved in illegal activity. Probable cause could be based on something the officer sees looking into your car, for example, or the smell of illegal drugs. There does not necessarily need to be physical evidence visible for an officer to believe that he or she will find such evidence by searching the vehicle. However, in such a case, the officer must be able to clearly state why he or she has such a belief, or the search could be determined to be illegal later.

It is extremely important to remember that if you consent to a search, an officer does not need a warrant or probable cause. Furthermore, the officer does not necessarily have to ask for your permission directly or clearly. If they make an attempt at a search and you allow it, you can lose your ability to challenge the legality of the search down the road.

You have every right to tell an officer in no uncertain terms that you do not consent to a search. Your refusal will not necessarily prevent the search, but refusing preserves your ability to bring up the legality of the search as a defense strategy if the officer finds anything illegal. If it is ultimately determined that the search was illegal, there is a good chance that the court will throw out any evidence that was found in the search. Without the evidence, prosecutors are likely to have a much less convincing case, which could even lead to the dismissal of the charges against you.

Call a McHenry County Criminal Defense Attorney

If you or someone you love has been arrested based on evidence found in a search that you believe was illegal, contact an experienced Crystal Lake criminal defense lawyer. At Botto Gilbert Lancaster, PC, we will work hard to ensure that your rights and best interests are fully protected. Call 815-338-3838 to schedule a free consultation with a member of our team today.





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