When can a police officer make a valid stop of your vehicle?

July 9, 2013 in Legal Information

Under Illinois law, reasonable suspicion is required in order for a police officer to make a valid stop of your vehicle. In order for the police officer to have reasonable suspicion, the officer’s decision must be based on specific and articulate facts which, taken together with rational inferences from the facts as presented, reasonably warrant the stop of your vehicle. A hunch is insufficient. Since reasonable suspicion depends on the facts and circumstances unique to that situation, each case must be decided on its own facts. (1)

For example, a driver’s single, momentary crossing of the center line, without anything more, is a sufficient basis for a traffic stop, and the stop is invalid only if the officer knows additional facts that make it reasonably and articulately apparent that the crossing is legal. (1) In this situation, the stop of the defendant’s vehicle after the officer observed it crossing the center line was supported by reasonable suspicion, and the defendant presented no evidence to suggest that the crossing was legal.

Elsewhere, another officer had reasonable suspicion to justify the stop of a defendant’s vehicle where the defendant was present in a neighborhood that had experienced a rash of garage burglaries. The officer lived in the area and did not recognize the defendant’s truck, while the defendant’s vehicle exited from an alley, known to contain a number of items usually kept in garages, late at night. (2) In this situation, the stop of the defendant’s vehicle was supported by reasonable suspicion, meaning that the facts and rational inferences from those facts warranted the stop of the defendants vehicle.

A police officer may stop a vehicle if he or she reasonably infers from the facts and circumstances unique to that situation that an occupant has committed or is about to commit an offense.

(1) People v. Rush, 319 Ill. App. 3d 34 (2001)
(2) People v. Magallanes, 409 Ill. App. 3d 720 (2011))
(3) People v. Houlihan, 167 Ill. App. 3d 638 (1988)

Are school officials, such as teachers or principals, allowed to search students’ belongings while they are on school grounds?

July 9, 2013 in 4th Amendment Rights

Several cases in Illinois suggest that school officials can not freely search a student’s backpack, as this would be an unreasonable search and violation of 4th Amendment of the United States Constitution.  Accordingly, school officials must have reasonable suspicion before being able to search a student. (1) Reasonable suspicion means that the school official must have more than a mere hunch and must identify specific and articulated facts which, when taken with their natural inferences, make intrusion into the students backpack reasonable. (1) Additionally, the school official may conduct as thorough of a search only as required by the immediate circumstances.

Another important aspect to consider is whether the school official is acting under the tip of another. An anonymous tip, suitably corroborated, may provide reasonable suspicion to justify a seizure, so long as the information exhibits some indicia of reliability. (2) In determining whether the substance of a tip, standing alone, may provide reasonable suspicion to justify a search or seizure, courts will consider the detail of the tip, whether the tip established the informant’s basis of knowledge, whether the informant indicated he or she witnessed any criminal activity, and whether the tip accurately predicts future activity of the suspect. (2).

In conclusion, school officials can not freely search students backpacks and belongings while on school grounds unless they have reasonable suspicion to do so, and if acting on the tip of another, the information from the tip must exhibit some indicia of reliability in order to rise to the level of reasonable suspicion and justify the intrusion into a students backpack.

(1) People v. Taylor, 253 Ill.App.3d 768, (1993)
(2) People v. Kline, 355 Ill.App.3d 770, (2005)