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August 2012 Archives

DUI - Prolonging the Traffic Stop to Observe Evidence May Be Unlawful

Despite the apparent latitude the Illinois Supreme Court gave police with their decision in People v. Hackett,DUI defense lawyers can still look to the safeguards provided by the 4th Amendment. While Hackett facially appears to give law enforcement the ability to stop a car for even a momentary lane crossing (albeit when it happens twice), it in no way changed the requirements for prolonging an initial stop. (See previous post for detail analysis of Hackett) Prolonging a traffic stop beyond the time required to perform the initial purpose is still violative of the 4th amendment unless the officer can point to observations warranting the continuation of the stop, like drugs, guns, or obvious and extreme alcohol impairment. In particular, note that a seizure which is justified solely by the interest in issuing a warning ticket to the driver can become unlawful if it is prolonged beyond the time reasonably required to complete that mission."* Caballes, 543 U.S. at 407, 125 S.Ct. at 837, 160 L.Ed.2d at 846, cited byPeople v. Baldwin, 388 Ill. App. 3d 1028, 1033, 904 N.E.2d 1193, 1198 (3rd Dist. 2009).Defense lawyers should still be wary of situations in which police attempt to create additional opportunities to observe a driver possibly under the influence without necessarily extending the length of the stop. Now it is well established that an officer can ask a driver out of his vehicle following a lawful traffic stop. Gonzalez, 184 Ill.2d at 413-14, cited by People v. Sorensen 196 Ill. 2d 425, 433 (Ill. S.Ct. 2001). The question then becomes, say in the situation of issuing a warning ticket, what can the officer do after pulling a driver out of the car without unconstitutionally prolonging the stop? Can he take additional steps to try to observe a DUI without extending the length of the seizure?

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