On your way home from a friend’s, an officer stopped you for speeding. While issuing your ticket, the officer noticed a baggie of pills on the passenger side floor. Because of the pills, you were ordered out of the car and eventually arrested for possession of narcotics.
Can they do that? Depending on the circumstances, the answer is yes.
An officer may seize property in plain view if: (1) the officer is lawfully located in the place where he or she observed the object; (2) the object is in plain view; and (3) the object’s incriminating nature is immediately apparent. “Immediately apparent” means there is sufficient evidence to justify the reasonable belief that the defendant has committed or is committing a crime. While a mere hunch is insufficient, an officer may draw inferences based on his or her own experience in deciding whether probable cause exists. The officer need not know for certain that the item is contraband or evidence of a crime.
If instead your pills had been in a labelled prescription bottle, the bottle’s incriminating nature would likely not be immediately apparent. In People v. Molnar, the court found that an unlabelled bottle containing Xanax along with a baggie was sufficiently incriminating as the Xanax was not in its original container.
If you have been charged with a DUI, traffic or criminal offense, contact an experienced attorney immediately. The legality of a police search can be a highly fact-specific question. An attorney who is familiar with your judge can best try to argue your situation in its most favorable light. You may even be able to suppress the evidence from your stop.
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.)