Tricking you into consenting to search:
When you are pulled over and the officer has a hunch you are doing something illegally, they will try to feed that hunch by asking you to consent to a search of your vehicle. In Illinois, an officer cannot search your vehicle or home without a search warrant unless there is a legal exception. These legal exceptions are:
- Whether or not he sees something illegal in plain view
- Whether he is in hot pursuit
- Whether he is searching incident to your arrest (if he’s detained you and is taking you to jail he can search your vehicle incident to that arrest)
- Whether you give consent for him/her to search
Many times, officers will give you a warning and it appears you can leave. But, instead of letting you walk away and leave, then they start to engage in conversation with you. Then they ask to search your vehicle. DO NOT FALL INTO THIS TRAP. DO NOT GIVE THEM CONSENT TO SEARCH. Say politely, “Thanks officer, but no thanks. I am going to leave. Have a nice day.” They do it this way because courts have ruled that after he gives you the warning, you are free to leave, and the encounter from that point forward is CONSENSUAL. If you allow him to search after that, then it would be difficult to challenge the search later on.
Forfeiting your vehicle and making money from it:
Along with the crime prevention incentive, these officers have a financial incentive to finding drugs. Not only do they get the drugs off the street, they can seize your vehicle and in Illinois, they can forfeit your rights to the vehicle through the Drug Asset Forfeiture Proceedings under 725 ILCS 150. Then, your county State’s Attorney receives 10-12% of the money brought in from the sale of the vehicle. As the article lists below, in Madison County, IL, the State’s Attorney’s Office there receives upwards of $4 million dollars per year from these proceedings.
For example, as of 2012, the Peoria County State’s Attorney’s Office has a policy of forfeiting all vehicles seized if in violation of the Drug Asset Forfeiture Act. I’ve been told they take this position because if they allow one vehicle to go and that vehicle is subsequently involved in some sort of accident or crime, they would be subjected to much scrutiny if they allowed the vehicle to go. This is a win/win for their office. Not only do they seize ALL these vehicles, they get a substantial amount of money from the policy under the Illinois statute.
There are many instances in Illinois where suspected police officer abuses have come up. For purposes of this article, I want to focus on a video that I watched recently that perfectly illustrates behavior we have to be aware of and prevent.
Hypothetically, let’s say that you are driving your car out of St. Louis after attending a convention. You are driving the speed limit on I-70, cruise control set, and you’re obeying traffic laws. Then suddenly you are pulled over and the officer tells you that he noticed you crossed over the center dividing line and he was pulling you over to investigate a violation of Improper Lane Usage. He asks you to get out of the car and discusses it with you. Ultimately, he gives you a warning and shakes your hand as if you can leave. You turn and walk away.
In the same breath as the officer is about to say goodbye, he says, “Hey, can I ask you a question?” Surprised, you say, “ummmm, yes.” The officer then says, “I noticed that your passenger was kinda nervous. Are you guys hiding anything illegal in the car? You say, “No. We are just leaving St. Louis coming from a convention.” The officer then starts asking you, “Do you have any cocaine? Marijuana? Heroine?” You answer no to all the questions. Then he asks, “do you have any large quantities of money you’re transporting? See, this roadway has a lot of drug traffickers and we are just trying to make sure that isn’t going on here. So do you have a large amount of money you’re traveling with?” You say, “no, I’m poor.”
By this point, you are probably wondering what the hell is going on. That’s when you ask the most important question: “Officer, am I free to leave?” The officer then says, “Well, you are free to leave, but your vehicle isn’t. Will you allow me to search your vehicle? If you refuse, I’m going to have my canine smell around your car and if he alerts, I’m going to search the inside.” Then he gets the canine and that’s where it starts to get out of hand.
Watch this video and you’ll see what I mean. (Video is 18 minutes but worth watching)
As you can see, there are many problems here. First, the questionable stop. Then, the questionable warning. Next, the rolling “no” questions designed to get a consent to search. Then the highly questionable “alert” by the drug dog where it appears that the officer alerted the dog and encouraged the dog to “alert.” All these questionable things about this stop happen quite frequently.
If put in this situation where you are given a warning, politely leave and simply do NOT engage the police officer in any more discussion. If the police officer does not allow you to leave, ask if you are under arrest. If he says you are not under arrest, ask again if you are free to leave. If he still says no, then you’re technically considered under arrest and you should remain silent from that point forward because not much you can say or do at that moment will help you.
Just to reiterate, I’m not saying that all police officers use these tactics. For those that do, you run the risk of tarnishing your reputation, credibility, and job status.
Remember: If you are pulled over, be polite, have your Driver’s License and proof of insurance ready for the officer to see, and make sure your hands are visible. Don’t forget you have rights though. Do not consent to any search under any circumstance, no matter what the officer promises you.
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