Without more, the answer is probably not.  Under Illinios law, nervousness by itself does not give an officer probable cause for the search.

While most police searches require a warrant, there is an exception for automobiles. Under that exception, law enforcement officers may perform a warrantless search if there is probable cause to believe that the automobile contains evidence of criminal activity that the officers are entitled to seize.  The fact you may have made furtive movements is not enough by itself to provide probable cause.

Your furtive movements may have an innocent explanation, such as that you were trying to reach the glove compartment for your car’s registration or you wanted to turn the radio down. To constitute probable cause, a “furtive gesture” must be “invested with guilty significance” either because the officer knows specific information or the officer has observed additional suspicious circumstances.

In  People v. Randall, the defendant showed both furtive movements and nervous behavior: Defendant had entered an intersection with a red light, his front passenger tire went up on the curb as he pulled over and he began to exit the vehicle before placing it in park. The court did not find the defendant’s nervousness to be significant.  Such nervousness, the court said, would be expected of any citizen who was pulled over for a minor traffic infraction, removed from the car, handcuffed and patted down within less than 1 1/2 minutes of the stop.  However, the court did not ultimately conclude as to whether probable cause existed for the initial search of a vehicle.

If you have been charged with a criminal or traffic offense, contact an experienced attorney immediately.  Was the search of you or your automobile legal?  Determining probable cause is a highly fact-based inquiry, and different judges may view the same facts differently.  An attorney who is familiar with your courthouse may be able to present your facts to your particular judge in their most favorable light.

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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