Can the Police Handcuff You Without "Arresting" You?

 Posted on October 06, 2022 in Uncategorized

Drug crime cases often begin with seemingly routine traffic stops. Illinois law enforcement officers may use a minor traffic crime, such as speeding, as a pretext to stop and search a vehicle suspected to contain evidence of illegal drug activity. While the Constitution is supposed to protect all citizens against "unreasonable" searches, in practice there are a number of loopholes that judges allow police to exploit.

Court Reinstates Drug Charge After Questionable Search

One recent Cook County drug case, which is still pending, began with an unverified "tip" from an unidentified informant. Someone allegedly informed a Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agent in San Diego that a woman was illegally transporting drugs to Chicago. This agent then told his counterparts in Chicago.

Federal and local officials working as part of an anti-drug task force at O’Hare International Airport traced the woman, identified by the San Diego agent, to a nearby hotel. They watched the woman enter one of the hotel rooms with a black bag. A short time later, the defendant and another woman entered the room. They then exited the room with the defendant carrying the black bag.

The defendant and his associate got into a car and drove away. Law enforcement followed. Two Chicago Police Department officers, acting in concert with the task force, then stopped the car on the grounds that it was "traveling too fast for conditions."

Police removed the defendant from the car, handcuffed him, and detained him in the back of a police car. Meanwhile, police said the defendant’s female associate consented to the search of her car. A police dog sniffed the black bag and "gave an alert for the presence of narcotics." The police searched the bag, which contained methamphetamine, and consequently the defendant was charged with a crime.

In court, the judge threw out the case against the defendant. The judge determined the police had unlawfully arrested the defendant - handcuffing and placing him in the police car - before they had "probable cause" that he had committed a crime. In other words, the police arrested the defendant before discovering the drugs.

Unfortunately, an appeals court saw things differently. The First District Appellate Court reversed the trial court’s decision and ordered the defendant to stand trial. The First District rationalized the defendant was not actually under arrest when the police searched the bag - even though he was handcuffed and placed in a police car. Instead, the defendant was merely "detained" as part of a "valid investigatory stop." And since the police had a "reasonable articulable suspicion that the defendant was involved in criminal narcotics activity," and the original traffic stop was legal, that made the search acceptable. The defendant has been charged with illegal possession of methamphetamine.

An Illinois Drug Crimes Attorney Can Help

If you find yourself caught up in any type of drug case, it is essential that you speak with an experienced Orland Park criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Contact the Fotopoulos Law Office to schedule your consultation today.


Illinois Official Reports

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