The Facts

www.newsbug.com article reported, at 11:38 a.m. July 15, 2013, according to police reports, ISP (Illinois State Police) narcotics agents were conducting a joint investigation in the western suburbs of Cook County regarding criminal drug activity. Agents received information regarding a suspicious maroon 2005 Toyota Tacoma truck en route to the Chicago area driving along North Avenue, in Stone Park. ISP District Chicago Troopers who were working with the agents observed a traffic violation and initiated a traffic stop on the 3200 block of W. North Avenue, in Stone Park. Upon further investigation, an Elmhurst canine responded with a positive alert where approximately 100 kilos of cocaine were discovered in two rubber tubs located in the truck bed of the vehicle. Police also found approximately $15,000 inside the pick-up truck. The male driver was arrested and relocated to the Northlake Police Department for further investigation, according to a news release

Legal Issues

The article reports that “agents received information regarding a suspicious” truck.  For sanity sake lets assume that the “suspicious” truck is pure editorializing on the part of the articles author and just a superfluous insertion.  What bothers me and what should bother any person who may find himself or herself in the position of the driver of this vehicle is where did the so-called “information” come from?  Who is this ominous source?  Although in this case police did not obtain a warrant, law enforcement officials may find probable cause to procure a warrant based on an informants words and the totality of the circumstances surrounding those words.

The next situation that I take issue with as an Illinois Criminal Defense Attorney is the traffic violation that forced the driver of the struck to pull over and therefore be temporarily “seized” by law enforcement officials.  What was the traffic violation?  Was there really a legitimate traffic violation?  There is a term of art in the legal community known as a pre-textual stop.  A pre-textual stop involves a police officer stopping a driver for a traffic violation, minor or otherwise, to allow the officer to then investigate a separate and unrelated, suspected criminal offense. Pre-textual traffic stops allow police officers wide discretion in whom they choose to stop, and for what reasons they use to justify the traffic stop. By law, police officers must observe a legitimate traffic violation in order to stop an automobile. Police officers, however, have come under fire from individuals who charge that police officers stop their automobiles based on race rather than any supposed traffic violation.   Pre-textual stops are legal so long as the stop is based on a traffic violation.  The best and maybe only way to argue an improper pre-textual stop is when an officer pulls you over solely based on race.

Dog Sniff

The motorist of this car upon being stopped was then subjected to a dog sniff.  Based on Florida v. Jardines, law enforcement may not use a canine to alert an officer to the presence or absence of drugs when that sniff occurs on or within the curtilage of a person’s home.  However, the Supreme Court has held that since-as a motorist-you have decided to avail yourself to the state and federal highways and roads by driving on them, you have abrogated your reasonable expectation of privacy and therefore, may be subjected to a vehicle sniff by a police canine.

This situation raises many 4th Amendment interests and the driver of this vehicle would be remiss of he did not contact an Illinois attorney as soon as he is processed.