Justia Lawyer Rating
Top 100 lawyers
Elite Lawyer
AVVO Rating
Chicago Bar Associati
Illinois State Bar Association
10 Best - Criminal Law
10 Best - Personal Injury
10 Best - DUI/DWI
illinois Trial lawyers
Cook County Bar Association
Will County Bar Association
National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers

Can the Police Handcuff You Without “Arresting” You?

Court Reinstates Drug Charge After Questionable SearchDrug 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

Client Reviews
John Fotopoulos is a very knowledgeable and professional attorney. I am a client and have referred him many close friends and family to John. I would recommend John Fotopoulos to anyone who needs help with personal Injury and criminal justice. I have know John Fotopoulos for over 15 years and he has always put his clients first. Colette G.
John is one in the most professional attorneys out there. His personal approach to his clients is amazing. He does whats best for you, even if its not what you want to hear. This approach and his availability to be reached whenever you need him, makes John the only attorney youll ever need. Mark
John is very dedicated to his clients and his work. He is extremely knowledgeable, responsive and thorough. It is hard to find a lawyer that you can trust and depend on, John is that lawyer. He goes above and beyond to make the most difficult times less difficult. Kris T.