You really hadn’t done much. You and your friend were parked side by a side in a deserted lot. You handed a small package to your friend, and he pulled off. Next thing you know, the police blocked your car. After a search, they found your secret stash of marijuana and maybe a little cocaine.
Can they arrest you? What can you do?
Under the Fourth Amendment, police can search you without a warrant as long as they have a reasonable, articulable suspicion of criminal activity. In other words, the police cannot search you based solely on a hunch or feeling. They must point to specific facts that made the officer reasonably believe before the search that you were committing a crime. The fact the officer found the drugs on you does not retroactively justify the search.
Whether the Court believes a search is justified depends on all the facts of the situation. Were you in a high crime area? Did the officer see you exchange something that looked like drugs? Was the area under surveillance? Had the officer received a tip that a drug deal was about to take place? Were you acting nervous? Could your conduct be explained in some other, more innocent way? Maybe you were just shaky because it was cold, or perhaps you were returning a lost item to your friend.
If you are arrested after a search, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can review the facts of your case to see if there is a basis to ask the Court to suppress the evidence from an illegal search.
If you have questions about this or another related criminal, DUI or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information, see our related post at Can the Police Search My Car? Your Rights During a DUI Stop. For an interesting Illinois case, see: People v Petty
(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)