You left your car at your friend’s house while you were out of town. You wanted the car moved every few days so you left him the keys.  While you were gone, the police stopped your friend in the car and asked to search it based on suspicion that it was involved in a crime.  Your friend said OK. The police found hidden drugs leading to your arrest.

Can they do that?  The answer depends on the authority your friend had to consent to the search.

To justify the search, the state must show that a reasonable person, in the circumstances presented to the officer, would believe that the third party had apparent authority over the item searched.  The third party’s mere possession of the item is not enough. Rather, authority depends on the third party’s use of, control over and access to the item.

For example, in People v. Ortega, a truck driver transported a BMW from Nevada to Chicago.  The driver stopped in Naperville to unload another car. In attempting to move the BMW, the truck driver discovered the battery was dead.  Checking inside the truck, the driver found multiple bundles wrapped in duct tape.  The driver called police who opened the packages based on the driver’s consent.  The packages contained cannabis, and the BMW owner was arrested.

The court found that the truck driver was empowered to enter the BMW, drive it off the transport truck, and open the trunk to access the battery. Thus, the driver had apparent authority over the BMW and could consent to the search of those areas. However, the truck driver did not have authority over the sealed packages. Thus a search warrant was required to open the packages.

If you have been charged with a criminal or traffic offense, contact an experienced attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case for its best possible defense.  Was the search legal?  If not, an attorney may be able to petition the judge to suppress the evidence resulting from the search.  Under certain circumstances, this could result in your case being dismissed.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email

<p><i>(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.)</i>


About mdkeenan

A criminal and school law attorney with over 17 years of experience, I have successfully represented clients all over the Chicago area. My practice includes DUI, felony, criminal, misdemeanor, homicide, internet crime, retail theft, traffic offenses, cyberstalking, drug crimes, weapons violations, domestic battery and juvenile crime. I also represent families involving school cases. My clients come from all over the Chicago area including Skokie, Wilmette, Niles, Northbrook, Glenview, Evanston, Winnetka, Highland park, Northfield, Park Ridge, Des Plaines and Mount Prospect. I am a member of the ACLU and the Illinois State Bar Association. I serve as a volunteer for First Defense Legal Aid. Se habla espanol.
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