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Unlawful Search Dismisses Drug Possession Conviction

Unlawful Search Dismisses Drug Possession ConvictionAn Illinois appellate court recently overturned a man’s conviction on the charge of unlawful possession of methamphetamine with intent to deliver. The defendant successfully argued that Illinois state troopers unlawfully seized and searched his vehicle before discovering the narcotics. A lower court had dismissed his request to suppress the evidence. Without legal evidence of narcotics possession, the appellate court ordered that the charge be dismissed.

Case Details

Six days before the defendant’s arrest, an undercover state trooper met the defendant in order to purchase narcotics. The defendant allegedly provided the state trooper with a small tube containing methamphetamine, but no money was exchanged. On the date of the arrest, the undercover trooper informed the state police that he believed the defendant was transporting narcotics. Police located the defendant’s vehicle, and a state trooper pulled him over for driving seven miles per hour over the speed limit. While the trooper was questioning the defendant and checking for any outstanding warrants, another trooper arrived with a dog trained to identify the presence of narcotics. The dog alerted the trooper to possible drugs in the car. The defendant allegedly gave his verbal consent for the troopers to search the vehicle, but they did not find any narcotics or evidence of hidden compartments. State police then transported the defendant and his vehicle to a local police station, claiming that impending rain would threaten the safety of the troopers at the scene. When at the station, the police began a second search and received written consent from the defendant. The troopers found tubes containing narcotics, located near the vehicle’s air filter. The defendant was charged and later convicted, resulting in a 15-year prison sentence.

Illegal Search

The defendant appealed his conviction, saying that the state police improperly obtained the evidence of his narcotics possession. Specifically, he claimed:

  • The traffic stop was unlawful;
  • The vehicle search at the scene unnecessarily prolonged the stop; and
  • The police did not have probable cause to search his vehicle on the road or at the station.

The appellate court sided with the state on the defendant’s first two arguments. The defendant committed a traffic violation by speeding, which made his stop lawful. The vehicle search at the scene began while the defendant was discussing his traffic violation and finished in a reasonable amount of time. For the third argument, the appellate court stated that police were justified in searching the vehicle at the scene but did not have probable cause to transport the vehicle and do a second search. Once the initial search did not turn up any results, the police had no right to detain the defendant any further. The written consent to the second search holds no weight because the premise for the search was unlawful.

Contesting Drug Charges

Even if police find you in possession of an illegal substance, you can contest the charge. A DuPage County criminal defense attorney with Stephen A. Brundage, Attorney at Law, can determine whether police conducted an unlawful search in order to obtain their evidence. Schedule an appointment by calling 630-260-9647.

Source:

http://www.illinoiscourts.gov/Opinions/AppellateCourt/2017/3rdDistrict/3150215.pdf

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