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Search and Seizure 101

In May of this year, trouble was brewing between two rival gangs in Evanston, Illinois and shots were fired into a playground. Police Chief Richard Eddington decided that a “stop and frisk” campaign to get illegal firearms off the streets was a necessary response to this dangerous situation.

Pros and cons of a stop and frisk

The Fourth Amendment prohibits searches and seizures that are unreasonable. Can stop and frisk campaigns be considered unreasonable when dangerous criminal activity has escalated and many unlawful guns are on the street? In New York City, where this procedure is common, critics argue that it can be a frightening and humiliating experience that targets minorities disproportionately and sows seeds of distrust between police and civilians.

Pedestrian stops

The stop: Illinois permits a peace officer to stop people in a public place and question them for a reasonable period of time when the circumstances lead the officer to infer that they are committing, have committed, or are about to commit a crime.

The frisk: If a peace officer during the course of the questioning reasonably suspects that the peace officer or another is in danger of being attacked, the officer may search for weapons. If an illegal weapon is found on the person, the officer may make an arrest.

This short detention question a suspect is known as a Terry stop after the U.S. Supreme Court decision that analyzed this process.

Auto stops

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that when police observe a traffic infraction, stop the offending car, and detain its occupants, the lawfulness of their conduct is decided under a Terry analysis.

In a recent Illinois case, the police observed a driver changing lanes without using a turn signal in a dangerous neighborhood where there had been a recent police shooting. They stopped the car and noticed that the driver was making furtive movements after he pulled to the curb. They ordered the driver out of the car and handcuffed him. The defendant moved to suppress the marijuana that the police seized in this stop. The court held that under these circumstances, the officer’s concern for his safety was reasonable and justified his use of handcuffs. Thus, the Terry stop did not become an unlawful arrest.

 The Law Offices of Paul Chatzky has been advocating for clients for more than 30 years. Our discerning criminal law attorney explores all available avenues in your defense, including, where appropriate, a request to suppress statements made or items seized upon arrest.

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Paul Chatzky
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About Born in Havana, Cuba, Paul Chatzky is fluent in Spanish and English, enabling him to effectively represent a wider range of individuals and businesses. He is AV® Preeminent™ Peer Review Rated by Martindale-Hubbell®, and is listed among Illinois Super Lawyers, which is a reflection of his high ethical standards and exceptional legal knowledge. As…

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Deborah E. Chatzky
Paralegal

About Prior to joining the firm as a paralegal, Debbie was employed by major banking institutions as a loan processor and as an executive secretary. Debbie was also employed as an administrative assistant for the Board of Jewish Education. Having majored in Sociology, Debbie graduated from the University of Florida in 1980. Debbie completed her…

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