Search and Seizure

Chicago Criminal Defense Lawyer Handling Illegal Search and Seizure Cases

If you have been charged with a felony or misdemeanor in Cook County, you are afforded certain rights that are enumerated in the Constitution. The Fourth Amendment protects U.S. citizens from illegal searches and seizures. Over the years, the U.S. Supreme Court and the Supreme Court of Illinois have further clarified the Fourth Amendment, devising criminal procedure rules applicable to numerous different situations. If your Fourth Amendment rights were violated during your arrest, you can challenge the prosecutor’s case during a probable cause hearing or through a motion to suppress.

An accomplished and experienced criminal defense attorney like David L. Freidberg will be well-versed on Fourth Amendment precedent, including search warrant requirements, stop-and-frisks, and vehicle searches. David L. Freidberg has over twenty years of experience representing misdemeanor and felony clients in the Circuit Court of Cook County. David L. Freidberg has offices in Chicago, DuPage, and Skokie and represents clients in the Chicago Metropolitan Area.

For a free consultation, call The Law Offices of David L. Freidberg 24/7 at (312) 560-7100 or toll free at (800) 803-1442.

Warrant Requirement

Arrest warrants give the Chicago Police Department the power to seize you, arrest you, and search you incident to arrest. Following an investigation, a police officer will seek an arrest warrant from a neutral magistrate judge. If the judge finds sufficient factual evidence to create probable cause, the judge will sign the warrant for your arrest. The police are then permitted to locate you and arrest you.

Search warrants undergo a similar procedure. Following an investigation, the police will develop a reason to believe that illegal contraband will be found at a certain address. The police will then request a search warrant from a neutral magistrate judge in order to gain access to that address. If the judge has probable cause to believe contraband will be found at that address, the judge will sign the order.

The Fourth Amendment requires a warrant premised upon probable cause in order to seize someone or search their person or home. However, there are several exceptions to the warrant requirement.

Warrantless Seizures and Searches

Simple contacts with police are not seizures under the Fourth Amendment. An example of a contact is when a police approaches you in public and asks if you are willing to answer a question.

Seizure occurs when “a reasonable person would have believed he was not free to leave,” given the circumstances. United States v. Mendenhall, 446 U.S. 544, 554 (1980).

However, if the police officer has reasonable suspicion to believe that you are committing a crime, the officer can briefly detain you in what is known as a Terry stop. Reasonable suspicion is a low threshold. You are seized when a Terry stop begins. A Terry stop is not an arrest – you simply are not allowed to walk away. A Terry stop occurs when the police use physical force or a show of their authority as officers to stop you.

During this Terry stop, the officer may frisk you, often called a protective pat-down. A frisk is a pat-down of your outer garments. The purpose of the frisk is to feel for any weapons that you might use against an officer. Terry stops do not permit full-on searches. If an officer feels a weapon such as a handgun or knife, the officer has permission to remove this weapon and can charge you with a weapons offense.

If there is no basis for the Terry stop, the stop is illegal and violates the Fourth Amendment. Any items found as part of a frisk or full-on search must therefore be suppressed as evidence at trial. In addition, an officer cannot hunt around in your pockets for any drugs you might have in there. If an officer feels something in your pocket that does not feel like a weapon yet removes it anyway, this violates the Fourth Amendment, and this item must be suppressed. An officer is not permitted to manipulate items in your pockets or garments.

If a police officer has probable cause, the officer can detain you in order to investigate further or place you under arrest. If you are arrested, the officer will conduct a search incident to arrest. This is a full search. The officer will look in all of your pockets. If illegal contraband such as drugs or a stolen item are found on your person, those items will be confiscated and may be used as grounds for charging you with another crime or for evidence against you at trial.

Probable cause requires a higher level of certainty that you are committing a crime than reasonable suspicion. If the officer does not have probable cause to arrest you, any items found in a search incident to arrest must be suppressed due a Fourth Amendment violation.

Vehicle Searches and Seizures

The Fourth Amendment also applies to searches and seizures of drivers and passengers in cars. If the officer has adequate reason to stop your car, the officer may frisk you for weapons.

An officer may also search your car without a warrant under three circumstances. First, if illegal contraband is in plain view, the officer can confiscate it. Second, if the officer believes you are armed and dangerous, he may search passenger-accessible areas for a weapon and can confiscate any contraband he finds. Third, if you are arrested and your car is impounded, the police department will conduct an inventory search, writing up a list of all items in your car. Any illegal contraband found may result in additional charges.

If you were not violating traffic laws and the officer did not otherwise have reasonable suspicion or probable cause that you were committing a crime, any evidence found in your car or on your person must be suppressed under the Fourth Amendment.

Highly Rated Cook County Criminal Defense Lawyer Prepared to Fight Your Charges

Though it may be difficult to win a probable cause hearing and motion to suppress tangible evidence, David L. Freidberg has twenty years of experience with handling Fourth Amendment illegal searches and seizures claims and quite often prevails against the prosecution. If the police or the prosecutor violated your constitutional rights, David L. Freidberg can help you fight for those rights. Contact The Law Offices of David L. Freidberg at (312) 560-7100 or toll free at (800) 803-1442 to schedule a free case review. We are available 24/7 to help you.