You pulled out of the gas station and set off on your way home. You’d just had a few beers after work. A couple blocks later, you noticed a squad car behind you. The car continued following you and then pulled you over for no apparent reason. Eventually, you were arrested for DUI.
Can they do that?
In Illinois, the police may generally follow you but cannot stop you without a reasonable, articulable suspicion that you have committed or are about to commit a crime. The stop must be justified from the beginning. Police may not simply go on a fishing expedition to see if you might have been drinking or might have drugs in the car. The officer must point to specific, articulable facts which, taken together with rational inferences, reasonably warrant stopping to investigate you. The stop must be based on more than a hunch.
In a recent Illinois Appellate court decision, the court threw out a DUI arrest where the officer had followed the driver simply looking for violations. (See People v Bozarth.) The driver had not done anything wrong. Because the officer approached her car with his gun drawn, a reasonable person would not have felt free to leave. The officer was then required to have a reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing before making the stop. The officer testified he was looking to see if something “might happen.” As a result, the stop was illegal, and the defendant’s arrest was suppressed and her conviction reversed.
An officer may stop you if he or she is performing a community caretaking function. For example, if your tire is flat and the officer stopped you to let you know about it or if you were sleeping in a parked car. If the officer then sees something wrong, the arrest may be legal.
If you are charged with DUI or a similar offense, contact an experienced DUI attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case for your best possible defense. If the officer acted improperly, an attorney may ask the court to suppress your arrest or the evidence resulting from it. Even if the police acted properly and the evidence against you is overwhelming, an experienced attorney who is respected at the courthouse may be able to negotiate a more favorable plea agreement than you could on your own.
If you have questions about this or another related Illinois criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
(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.)