This is the next post in a series of articles discussing defending against traffic offenses in Peoria, Illinois. My previous post discussed defending against hit and run charges. As with other serious traffic offenses, such as reckless driving or DUI, leaving the scene of an accident is a criminal offense. Charges for hit and run, even if related to minor property damage, should be taken seriously to avoid incarceration, fines, and permanent loss or suspension of one’s driving privileges. In this post, I will discuss how traffic offenses and routine traffic stops can lead to additional criminal charges. If you need assistance defending against a traffic charge, contact my office today to schedule a consultation.
Peoria residents can be charged for criminal activity discovered during traffic stops
When the police pull someone over for a suspected traffic violation and discover that criminal activity is taking place, the driver and inhabitants of the vehicle may face additional charges. The U.S. Constitution gives law enforcement certain limited rights to search a vehicle when they have a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. This includes the right to review the driver’s license and registration information to identify any outstanding traffic or other warrants, pat down the driver, or conduct a field sobriety test. It also includes the right to conduct a “plain sight” search, meaning scanning the vehicle for contraband items in the plain view of the officer. One can imagine a variety of situations in which this may result in arrests for criminal activity. For example, if a Peoria driver has firearms laying on the backseat of his car, the officer may discover that the guns are not legally in the driver’s possession and make a related arrest. An officer who pulls a driver over for speeding may smell alcohol on the driver’s breath or burning narcotics in the vehicle and arrest them for DUI or drug possession. It is not uncommon for a simple traffic violation to result in serious criminal charges.
Illegal law enforcement searches can provide a defense to charges resulting from a traffic stop
It is important to understand law enforcement’s right to conduct a search during a traffic stop is limited. Pulling someone over for a broken tail light, for example, does not by itself give the police the unlimited authority to completely search a vehicle’s contents. The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures by police. This area of law is complicated and determining what constitutes an illegal search and seizure can be difficult. If an officer’s conduct is found to have violated the Fourth Amendment, evidence found during the illegal search may be excluded from the case. In some instances, successfully excluding such evidence may lead to the complete dismissal of criminal charges against the accused. An experienced criminal defense attorney can review your case and identify whether law enforcement violated your constitutional rights.
Identifying potential defenses related to traffic stop arrests is highly fact-specific. Consulting with a lawyer as soon as possible after the arrest will help determine if your rights have been violated. Contact my office today to schedule a consultation with a Peoria attorney. In addition to Peoria, I serve clients in 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.