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US Supreme Court to Rule on Whether an Officer Can Infer a Car is Being Driven By its Owner for Purposes of an Investigative Stop

It is axiomatic that the police are not lawfully permitted to institute a traffic stop unless they have reasonable suspicion that a law has been violated. While it is undisputed that reasonable suspicion is the burden of proof that must be met for a traffic stop to be legal, it is not always clear what constitutes reasonable suspicion. Recently, the United States Supreme Court issued a writ of certiorari in a case arising out of Kansas, to address the issue of whether an officer had reasonable suspicion sufficient to effectuate a traffic stop, based on evidence that the owner of the vehicle had a revoked driver’s license. If you are charged with an Illinois DUI arising out of traffic stop that may not have been lawful it is vital to engage a seasoned Illinois DUI attorney to discuss your viable defenses.

Facts Regarding the Kansas Case

Reportedly, in the Kansas case, a police officer who was patrolling ran a registration check on a truck. After running the check, the officer learned that the truck was owned by the defendant and that the defendant’s license was revoked. The officer then effectuated a traffic stop based upon the suspicion that the defendant was driving the truck despite not having a valid license. The defendant, who was driving the truck, was subsequently charged with habitually violating Kansas traffic laws.

It is alleged that the defendant filed a motion to suppress the evidence obtained during the stop, arguing that the officer lacked reasonable suspicion to pull him over and that an officer cannot infer that the owner of a vehicle is the person driving the vehicle. The court granted the defendant’s motion, after which the State appealed. The appellate court reversed the trial court ruling, and the Kansas Supreme Court granted review. Upon review, the Kansas Supreme Court reversed the appellate court ruling. The case is now before the United States Supreme Court, to address the issue of whether it is reasonable for an officer to infer that a vehicle is being driven by its registered owner for purposes of an investigative stop.

Illinois’ Interpretation of Reasonable Suspicion

Although the Kansas case does not specifically deal with the issue of DUI charges, the Court’s ruling will affect the landscape of all charges arising out of traffic stops based on reasonable suspicion. The Illinois courts have held that critical issue in determining whether a search is unreasonable is whether the situation the officer is confronted with justifies the search. Thus, whether reasonable suspicion exists must be assessed from the standpoint of the investigating officer and must take into account the officer’s knowledge and skill, rather than the experience of an ordinary citizen. While whether reasonable suspicion exists must be assessed on a case by case basis, in certain situations where the law is clearly defined it is easier to argue that a stop was unlawful and therefore any evidence obtained via the stop should be suppressed. As the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Kansas case will further expound upon the definition of reasonable suspicion throughout the country, including Illinois, it will undoubtedly affect the rights of drivers charged with DUI due to investigative stops.

Consult an Experienced Illinois DUI Attorney Regarding Your Case

If you were charged with a DUI due to evidence found during an improper traffic stop you should consult an experienced Illinois DUI attorney to discuss whether the State will able to use the evidence obtained during the stop against you.  Attorney Theodore J. Harvatin, of the Harvatin Law Offices, P.C. is a trusted Illinois DUI attorney assertively advocate on your behalf to help you preclude the State from using any evidence that was improperly obtained. You can reach  Mr. Harvatin at 217.525.0520 to schedule a free and confidential conference regarding your case.


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