Thursday, February 5, 2009

Illinois Supreme Court Justice Burke delivered an opinion recently on the issue of whether a passenger in a car may be lawfully searched after being stopped initally for a seatbelt violation when the officer found a warrant for the passenger's arrest outstanding upon a check of the identification of the passenger. No. 105457 People v. Bailey Filed 2/5/09 (LJD) In the case from Winnebago County, a county sheriff’s officer saw a car with a driver and passenger who were not wearing seat belts. The officer stopped the vehicle. After the occupants provided identification, a warrant check revealed that this defendant, who was the front seat passenger, had an outstanding arrest warrant for domestic battery. The defendant was arrested and the car was searched incident to the arrest. The search revealed cocaine. Defendant was charged and convicted of possession with intent to deliver. On appeal, defendant complained that his trial counsel should have made a motion to suppress the cocaine. The defendant argued that such a motion would have resulted in the suppression of the evidence that was found in the car because there is statutory law providing that officers may not “search or inspect” a vehicle passenger solely for failure to wear a seat belt. His theory was that if the contraband would have been suppressed, then he would not have been convicted. In this decision, the Illinois Supreme Court rejected this argument finding it is okay to do a warrant check on the passenger because it is simply an electronic search for a public document. Neither was there any constitutional or statutory violation in the search incident to arrest. The conviction stands. Food for thought....http://www.youraffordabledefense.com

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