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)