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traffic stop and search, Orland Park criminal defense attorney, illegal drugs, felony drug possessionAnyone who has seen the television show Law & Order knows the familiar opening narration: “In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate, yet equally important, groups: the police, who investigate crime; and the district attorneys, who prosecute the offenders.” But what happens when these functions become blurred, i.e. the district attorney’s office starts acting as the police? The Illinois Supreme Court recently addressed this question in an important case arising from the controversial policies of LaSalle County's former top prosecutor.

IL Supreme Court Says Ex-LaSalle Prosecutor Conducted Illegal Stops, Arrests

In 2011, then-LaSalle County State's Attorney Brian Towne formed a team of special investigators known as SAFE. Special investigators are individuals appointed by a State's Attorney to serve subpoenas and conduct limited investigations to “assist” prosecutors in performing their duties. They are not, however, sworn police officers.

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drug crime cases, drug charges, criminal conviction, drug conviction, Orland Park criminal defense attorney.Most drug crime cases in Illinois involve police searches, and the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires the police to obtain a warrant for most searches. In its broadest terms, the Fourth Amendment protects our right to privacy. However, this presumes that we had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the first place.

For example, if a police officer walks into your house and starts looking around, that would clearly be a violation of your privacy. Yet suppose you live in an apartment building and an officer searches the lobby, which is unlocked and accessible to the public. Illinois courts have said such searches of “common areas” do not require a warrant because there is no reasonable expectation of privacy.

Still, even within an apartment building, there are limits to how far the police can go. In a 2016 case, the Illinois Supreme Court held that police could not conduct a warrantless search outside an apartment door that was “located within a locked apartment building.” The court said the fact that public access was restricted to the hallway leading up to the defendant's door was critical.

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