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Excessive Force in a Traffic Stop Makes Evidence InadmissibleThe Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits police from conducting unreasonable searches and using excessive force during the search. When an officer violates the Fourth Amendment, the evidence that they find following the violation is inadmissible in a criminal case. Courts must analyze the circumstances of the search when determining whether it was reasonable and the force used by the officer was appropriate. State laws can help define which types of force are excessive depending on the suspect’s actions. A recent Illinois appellate court ruling on a drug possession case demonstrated how judges can have different interpretations of what constitutes a legal police search.

Case Details

In People v. Augusta, the trial court found the defendant guilty of unlawful possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver. According to the police officers’ testimonies, they were following the defendant because they suspected that he was selling narcotics and performed a traffic stop after the defendant allegedly failed to use his turn signal. During the stop, one of the officers noticed a bulge in the defendant’s cheek and a piece of plastic sticking out of his mouth. The officer asked the defendant to remove the contents from his mouth, believing it to be a bag of crack cocaine. When the defendant did not respond, the officer grabbed the defendant’s throat to prevent him from swallowing the bag and another officer helped remove the bag from his mouth. The bag contained what appeared to be crack cocaine, and the officers arrested the defendant. During the trial, the court denied the defendant’s motion to suppress the evidence on the grounds that the officers used excessive force. In a 2-1 ruling, the appellate court overturned the trial court’s ruling on whether to suppress the evidence, vacated the conviction and remanded the case for further proceedings.

Excessive Force

The majority decision said that the officers violated state law and the Fourth Amendment:

  • The seizure was unreasonable because the evidence was not in plain view of the officers.
  • The officers used force that violated state law for retrieving evidence.

Illinois law states that officers are not allowed to use a chokehold or lesser contact to the throat or neck area to prevent a suspect from trying to destroy evidence by ingesting it. Grabbing the defendant’s throat fell under the category of lesser contact. The appellate court ruling also said that the bulge in the defendant’s cheek was unusual but not incriminating enough to establish probable cause, meaning that the officers did not have the right to forcibly remove the object inside the defendant’s mouth.

Contact a Wheaton, Illinois, Criminal Defense Attorney

Police officers must follow rules when pulling someone over on suspicion of a crime and searching their body or vehicle for evidence. Violating these rules may make the evidence unusable in a criminal trial. A DuPage County criminal defense lawyer at Stephen A. Brundage, Attorney at Law, will hold the police accountable if they violate your civil rights. Schedule a consultation by calling 630-260-9647.



Posted in Criminal Law, Drug Crimes, DuPage County criminal defense attorney, Illinois criminal defense lawyer, Traffic Violation | Tagged , , , ,

Understanding the Burden of Proof in Criminal CasesThe U.S. has a court system that is meant to protect the accused as well as the accuser. An accusation must have some merit in order for the court to allow the case, and the prosecutor or plaintiff must prove why the defendant is guilty of or liable for the accusation. The burden of proof is one of the key concepts behind “innocent until proven guilty,” but different levels of proof are required depending on the type of case, including:

  • A preponderance of the evidence
  • Clear and convincing evidence
  • Evidence beyond a reasonable doubt

Criminal cases require the highest burden of proof because defendants have the most at stake if they are convicted.

A Preponderance of the Evidence

In most civil cases, the plaintiff must prove their claim by a preponderance of the evidence, meaning it is more likely than not that the plaintiff’s claim is accurate. The judge or jury may not have the evidence to dismiss either sides’ argument but only needs to determine which argument is more plausible. Courts allow this standard of proof in civil cases because the defendant is not faced with the threat of imprisonment. If the court finds in favor of the plaintiff, the defendant’s punishment will be financial, such as paying medical bills for an injury or replacing lost property or wages.

Clear and Convincing Evidence

Some civil cases have more than money at stake, such as parental rights or whether to issue an order of protection. Courts may use a higher standard of proof called clear and convincing evidence. This standard means that the plaintiff must prove that their claims are highly probable to be true. There is room for some doubt about the plaintiff’s claims, but the judge or jury must be almost certain that they are true.

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

The strongest standard is proving a claim beyond a reasonable doubt, meaning that there is no reasonable explanation for what occurred other than the claim. Criminal cases use this standard because the defendant may face:

  • Imprisonment
  • Probation
  • Loss of civil privileges
  • A criminal record that may limit their job and housing options

Proving that a defendant committed a crime beyond a reasonable doubt does not mean that all doubt has been erased. Starting from the position that the defendant is innocent, the judge or jury must be convinced that no reasonable person could come to a conclusion other than the defendant’s guilt.

Contact a DuPage County Criminal Defense Attorney

With the prosecution’s high burden of proof, the defense will try to find a plausible alternative explanation of the evidence or create doubt about the accuracy of the evidence. A Wheaton, Illinois, criminal defense lawyer at Stephen A. Brundage, Attorney at Law, will examine your case and come up with a winning strategy. Schedule a consultation by calling 630-260-9647.



Posted in DuPage County criminal defense attorney, Illinois criminal defense lawyer, Not Guilty | Tagged , ,

Three Keys to Defending Against a Domestic Violence ChargePeople who are charged with domestic violence may feel like they are already being punished before their case goes to trial. Their accuser has likely received a temporary order of protection against them that may prevent them from returning to their home or seeing their children. Those who are falsely accused of domestic violence feel particularly hurt and confused about the sudden restrictions placed on them. Many domestic violence incidents do not have witnesses other than the accuser and the accused. The court will heavily rely on whether they believe each side’s testimony about the incident. If you are facing a domestic violence charge, there are three keys to giving yourself the best chance to win your case:

  1. Obey the Order of Protection: Regardless of whether you are guilty of domestic violence, you can face criminal charges for violating an order of protection. That means you should not attempt to contact your accuser, either directly or through a third party. If your order prohibits you from entering your residence, you risk arrest if you sneak into your home to get your belongings. Talk to your attorney if you are concerned about properties at your residence. There are ways to secure your properties that do not violate the order of protection.
  2. Be on Your Best Behavior: You may have a reason to be angry at your accuser if you believe the domestic violence accusation is false. However, your public appearance must remain calm. Emotional outbursts – whether directed at your accuser or shared with someone else – support the idea that you are unstable and capable of violence. Your public behavior includes anything you say on social media and during seemingly private conversations with others, both of which could be used as evidence in your trial.
  3. Remain Consistent with Your Story: You do not have to testify during your trial if the prosecution lacks the evidence to prove that you are guilty of domestic violence. However, it may help for you to testify if your accuser is giving an inaccurate or incomplete account of what happened. It is important that you are consistent with your facts and the reason that you claim domestic violence did not occur. Your accuser may have fabricated the incident, the injury may have been an accident, or you may have been acting in self-defense. Whatever the truth is, staying consistent will give you credibility.

Contact a Wheaton Criminal Defense Attorney

You should immediately talk to a criminal defense lawyer if you are charged with domestic violence or served notice of an order of protection. A DuPage County criminal defense lawyer at Stephen A. Brundage, Attorney at Law, can help you respond to this allegation in a constructive manner. Call 630-260-9647 to schedule a consultation.



Posted in Criminal Law, Domestic Violence, DuPage County criminal defense attorney, Illinois criminal defense lawyer, Not Guilty | Tagged , ,