Can the Police Stop You for Switching Seats in Illinois?

You and your friend just came from a party. You were driving, but you started to feel sick. You pulled over to let your passenger drive. That’s when the police officer came up behind you. Now you’re charged with DUI.

Can the police stop you for switching seats?

In Illinois, whether an officer can stop you may depend on the reason for the stop. An officer cannot pull you over simply because you switched seats. He or she cannot act solely on a hunch that you might have done something wrong. An officer must have either probable cause or be acting in his or her capacity as a community caretaker.

You may give the police probable cause if you violate a traffic law. Maybe you didn’t pull your car far enough off the road or didn’t properly signal. Illinois courts have also held that switching seats before a police sobriety checkpoint can give an officer probable cause.

An officer may also stop you out of genuine concern for your wellbeing—known as the police community caretaking function. Thus, an officer can knock on a car window to see if a sleeping driver is all right. Or perhaps the officer saw you switching seats but stopped to see if you had mechanical problems or needed medical assistance. If the officer smells alcohol, the officer may then have probable cause for a DUI arrest.

If you are stopped for DUI or a similar offense, contact an experienced attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case for its best possible defense. Maybe the officer stopped you on a hunch but tried to justify the stop after the fact. A stop must be justifiable at the time it is made. If the stop is illegal, an attorney may petition the court to overturn the arrest.

Even if the police acted properly and the evidence against you is overwhelming, an attorney who is respected in the court house 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

See People v Gray and People v Dittmar

(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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