Officer patting down suspectThis is the next post in my series on rights of Peoria, Illinois residents who have encounters with the police. My last article provided an overview of topics which this series will be addressing and it stressed the need to speak with a criminal defense lawyer if you have been arrested. It is important to understand that you may be able to have any evidence, obtained by law enforcement, excluded from the Court’s proceedings. Under some circumstances, such exclusion can lead to a dismissal of the charges. In this article I will discuss whether the police may have violated the rights of an individual whom they stopped on the street. If you require assistance then contact my office today to speak with an attorney.

The police may not stop an individual simply because they want to or because they have a “hunch.” Under Terry v. Ohio, law enforcement officials are only permitted to stop a person on the street if they have “reasonable suspicion” that such a person is engaging or is about to engage in criminal activity. An officer will be found to have had justifiable suspicion of a suspect if all of the surrounding facts, combined with an officer’s training an experience, suggest that criminal activity is imminent. An officer may only stop and detain a person to the extent that is necessary to investigate the crime for which the officer has suspicion. If there is reason to believe that the individual is carrying a weapon, or poses some other type of threat, then the individual may be searched. If a legitimate stop yields evidence of criminal conduct then the officer will be permitted to place the individual under arrest.

The above legal standards are best explained through an example. Suppose officers observe an individual wearing a heavy trench coat, in the middle of summer, while walking back and forth in front of a jewelry store. Now suppose that officers observe the individual repeatedly looking inside the store. Under these circumstances it would likely be “reasonable” for officers to assume that the individual is “casing” the store in preparation of robbing it. If the officers approached the individual, ordered them to the side of the sidewalk, patted them down, and submitted them to questioning then a Court would likely find such a search as being justified.

If officers stop an individual without reasonable suspicion of criminal activity then it will be considered a violation of the Fourth Amendment. Any evidence obtained as the result of such a stop may possibly be excluded from the Court’s proceedings. Gaining the exclusion of such evidence involves complicated legal issues and it is important that you retain a lawyer who is familiar with such matters. I am a former prosecutor who now devotes his practice to defending the rights of the accused. I have handled many search and seizure issues and my office is ready to assist you. Contact us today to schedule an initial consultation.

In addition to Peoria, I service the cities of Bloomington, Eureka, Galesburg, Morton, Normal, Pekin, Springfield, and Washington. I also serve the counties of Fulton, Knox, LaSalle, Marshall, Mason, McLean, Putnam, Rock Island, Schuyler, Stark, Tazewell, and Woodford. I also handle federal cases in Urbana.