Marijuana Traffic Stops in Illinois
It is becoming increasingly common for police throughout Illinois to find marijuana during traffic stops. This phenomenon is not limited to Chicago’s city limits. Marijuana is spreading like wildfire throughout the Midwest and the majority of the United States. Though marijuana might not be considered a gateway drug like it was in the 80s and 90s, possessing, distributing and using marijuana is illegal in Illinois. The only exception is those who qualify for medical marijuana. The issue of marijuana traffic stops will become that much more prevalent as cannabis is accepted by mainstream America in the coming years.
Illinois Traffic Stops
If you are stopped by police for any reason, you should consider whether the traffic stop is lawful. This is especially true for marijuana-related traffic stops. If the police officer did not have probable cause to pull you over, the stop can be challenged as unlawful. The police need evidence you are either trafficking marijuana or another drug, using marijuana in the vehicle or violating the law in another manner to pull you over.
Do not assume you will automatically be found guilty of marijuana possession or distribution simply because you were pulled over. Meet with a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible after this unfortunate event. An experienced attorney will explain your rights, analyze your case and determine if you were unlawfully pulled over and/or harassed. Every little detail of the marijuana traffic stop matters a great deal. Even a subtle slip-up by the police officer who performed the traffic stop or even an err by the prosecution can help clear your name and reduce or eliminate potential penalties.
Know the Law
As noted above, Illinois police must have probable cause to pull over your vehicle. Probable cause is also necessary to search your vehicle. A warrant will suffice for a vehicle search. It is not enough for the police officer to merely suspect you or someone in your vehicle distributes or possesses marijuana or other drugs. The police officer requires reasonable cause such as the odor of marijuana or alcohol, an informant tip, fleeing the scene of the crime or police investigation to conduct the search. The officer can also conduct a plain view search, meaning he or she can peer into your vehicle’s windows after pulling you over. If the officer views an illegal object, he or she has sufficient probable cause to perform the search.
Know Your Rights: The Right to Remain Silent
If you are pulled over by a police officer, there is a good chance you will make a mistake that jeopardizes your case. Every Illinois resident should have a full understanding of their rights when pulled over. Ignorance of these rights really does have the potential to cause self-incrimination. Furthermore, if the police officer suspects you are unaware of your rights, they might view it as an opportunity to harass you.
Above all, you have the right to remain silent. There is no need to answer the police officer if he or she asks if you have marijuana or another drug in the vehicle, inquires how fast you were driving or asks if you have consumed alcohol. Criminal defense attorneys refer to such inquiries as leading questions as they have the potential to cause self-incrimination. If you do not want to answer the question, all you have to do is tell the police officer you are enacting your legal right to remain silent.
You Have the Right to Challenge Reason
Illinois residents pulled over by a police officer are also equipped with the legal right to challenge reason. Two specific forms of reason can be challenged in Illinois traffic stops. The traffic stop itself can be challenged. If you did not break a traffic law, make the police officer aware of the fact that you are challenging the traffic stop’s legitimacy. This request might not force the police officer to get back into his car and drive away yet it could help your case if you are charged with a crime.
The Right to Withhold for Consent to be Searched
If the police officer requests to search your automobile, do not answer in the affirmative. You do not know the police officer’s motives. He or she could easily plant marijuana or another drug in your vehicle. Police require reasonable cause or a warrant to search your personal property, be it a vehicle, home, backpack or anything else. If the police officer does not have probable cause to conduct the search, he or she will likely request permission to perform the search. Politely decline the request and your traffic stop just might prove insignificant.
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