You got pulled over for a traffic violation. The cop thought he smelled alcohol, and after some tests, you were charged with DUI. After they put you in the police car, the officers began searching the passenger compartment of your car. The stuff they found got you in bigger trouble.

Can they search your car like that? What can you do?

A police officer may search your car without a warrant as part of your arrest if 1) you have access to the car or 2) the officer reasonably believes that there is evidence of the crime in your car. Typically, when officers search a car after a DUI, it is because they are looking for evidence of drinking. The search should generally be limited to an area where you have access such as the passenger compartment. Under those circumstances it may be a legitimate search.

However, if you are stopped for an offense such as driving on a suspended license or speeding, the search may no longer be justified. Proof of speeding or driving on the suspended license would not likely be found in the car.

If the grounds for the search are questionable, an attorney may bring a motion to suppress the evidence of the search. What if the police exceeded the boundaries of the search, such as by opening the trunk? Or maybe the offense did not justify the need for a search. Be aware, however, that police can frisk for weapons to protect their own safety if they have a reasonable, articulable suspicion that you may be a danger to themselves or others. The police may also conduct an inventory search of your car when it is lawfully impounded.

If you are stopped for a driving offense or DUI, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An experienced attorney can evaluate your case to present the best possible defense. In limited cases where the evidence was obtained by an illegal search, your case may even be dismissed.

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

See our related post at Can They Search My Car? Your Rights During a Traffic Stop..

(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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