An officer can stop you for one reason then investigate you for another as long as the stop is not unduly prolonged. Whether a stop was unduly prolonged, and thus illegal, is a very fact-intensive question, which different judges may see very differently.

A traffic stop is unduly prolonged if it takes longer than the time reasonably required to complete the officer’s mission. The mission consists of the stop’s purpose and related safety concerns. Authority for the stop ends when tasks tied to the traffic violation are, or reasonably should have been, completed.  These tasks include checking your driver’s license, criminal history, vehicle registration, proof of insurance and whether you have any outstanding warrants.

The court looks at the duration of the stop but also whether the officer acted diligently in fulfilling the purpose of the stop. Even a relatively quick stop can be unduly prolonged if the officer completed his or her mission.  An officer cannot use any time saved to investigate other issues.

In People v. Sanchez, the court upheld a seven-minute traffic stop where the officer diligently conducted the necessary inquiries and obtained the information necessary to write the warning ticket and was not simply stalling to wait for the narcotics dog.

If you have been charged with a traffic or criminal offense, contact an experienced attorney immediately. Did the officer have probable cause to stop you in the first place?  How long did the stop last, and what was the officer doing during that time?  If the stop was unduly prolonged, an attorney can petition the court to try to suppress any evidence resulting from the stop or search, which in limited cases could result in dismissing your charges.

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

(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.)


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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