Monday, October 8, 2012

"THE OFFICER JUST SAW IT!": PLAIN VIEW EXCEPTION TO POLICE SEARCHING WITHOUT A WARRANT

You failed to use your turn signal so the police officer pulled you over. After making the stop, the officer noticed some spoons and straws sticking out of your visor. The officer opened the visor. As it turns out, you stashed a little cocaine up there too. Now you are under arrest.

Can you fight the results of the search?

In Illinois, the police generally need a warrant to search you, your home or your car unless they spot evidence in plain view. The police must be somewhere they have a right to go. They cannot barge into your bedroom and look around. But if they stop you for speeding and notice a bag of pot on the front seat of your car, the police may have grounds to search.

While courts usually find a reason to uphold a search, not everything a cop does is permitted. In a recent Illinois appeals case, the officer stopped a defendant for throwing a can out his car window. When the officer ordered the defendant out of the car, she noticed a knotted plastic baggie sticking out of his pocket. The baggie turned out to contain drugs. Nevertheless, the appeals court held that spotting the baggie did not justify the search.

The court noted that objects such as spoons, straws, mirrors and baggies are often used in drug dealing. Allowing police to search based on the presence of one of these items would lead to the type of random searching forbidden by the Constitution. The police have a basis to search only if the incriminating nature of the baggie or spoon is immediately apparent, for example, some of the powder is visible in the baggie.

If you have been charged with a crime, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. If the officer’s search is questionable, an attorney may be able to bring a motion before the judge to have the results of the search thrown out.

If you have questions about this or another related criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

Source: People v Cesar Garcia.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.) .

No comments: