Illinois Criminal Defense Blog

Friday, October 17, 2014

Everything You Need to Know about Police Searches in Chicago

Illinois law can be pretty confusing when it comes to police searches. When are they allowed to search your home, your car or your other property? When can police search you? Can you refuse?

People often ask their criminal defense lawyers these questions, but usually they ask after it’s already happened. It’s a good idea to know when and what police are allowed to search before it happens.

When it’s Legal for Chicago Police to Search

There are times when police are legally allowed to search you or your property, including:

  • After you’re arrested. Police have to search you when they arrest you for their own safety. They’re making sure that you’re not carrying any weapons. If they find drugs or other things you shouldn’t have, those things can be used against you in court.
  • When they see something illegal in plain sight. If you’re pulled over and you have a marijuana roach in your cup holder, stolen property spilling out of your trunk or an illegal weapon sitting on your back seat, the police have the law on their side when it comes to searching your vehicle.
  • When they’re reasonably certain that you’re involved in the commission of a crime. If you speed away from a bank that’s just been robbed by someone matching your description, police may legally be able to search your vehicle.
  • When they have a warrant. If a judge feels that it’s necessary to search you or your property, he or she will issue a warrant. With that warrant, police have the legal right to search.
  • When you consent. If police say, “Do you mind if I have a look around?” they’re asking for your consent to search. When you say yes, you’ve given it. It’s the same if they say, “Would you mind popping your trunk for me?”
  • When it’s absolutely necessary. Police can search people or property if they feel it’s necessary to prevent immediate danger to life or to stop the destruction of evidence.

Keep in mind, though, that each of these types of searches has to follow the letter of the law. If you think you were illegally searched, or that your property was, talk to your Chicago criminal defense lawyer so he can examine your case.

When it’s Illegal for Chicago Police to Search

The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution guarantees that you’re safe from illegal searches. For that reason, police can’t just stop you and frisk you when you’re walking out of Starbucks. They can’t kick down your door and dump your underwear drawer searching for something that you may or may not have.

If a police officer asks if you’ll consent to a search, whether it’s of your person, your vehicle or your property, you don’t have to say yes. You have the right to demand that he or she produce a warrant. That is your constitutional right.

If you believe you’ve been searched illegally, make sure you call a Chicago criminal defense lawyer immediately. There may be a way your attorney can protect your rights if police have violated them.


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