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Methamphetamine Trafficking cases routinely involve Fourth Amendment Search and Seizure issues that Require a Motion to Suppress

Brian L. Polinske
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Edwardsville Criminal Defense Trial Lawyer

It happens frequently in Madison County, Illinois.  Due to the two main drug corridors that exist I-55 and I-70 and an aggressive police presence many traffic stops result in methamphetamine trafficking charges.  The typical scenario is an out of state driver who has west or east coast plates on their vehicle.  Or a rental vehicle from out of state is being operated on the interstates. An Illinois State Trooper will identify the driver as an out of stater and begin their traffic interdiction.  They usually follow the subject after claiming some minor traffic violation led them to begin tailing the subject.  Many times the video (which is mandated for ISP) doesn't capture any portion of the alleged minor violation.  Most frequently we hear the motorist was following too closely.  After their initial claim of a violation the troopers then follow the subject for a distance and conduct a stop.  Audio is not activated until the overhead lights are turned on.  If any conversation to a K9 officer is made it is not detected until after the overheads are activated.  We can, however, obtain proof of any communication between officers prior to the in-car camera system's activiation. 

Once stoppped the officer routinely asks the subject a lot of questions unrelated to the traffic stop. Questions like "why are you driving such a long distance?" "why don't you have more luggage" "why do you have air fresheners" lead into a series of "rolling no's".  The officer asks the subject to exit their vehicle and enter the patrol car.  Inside the car everything is audio and video recorded.  The officer will make a lot of self-serving statements like "why are you so nervous?" "why are you lying to me?" and similar statements.  The officer knows everything is being recorded and is attempting to bolster his case should it go to hearing or trial.  Most individuals don't understand how important it is that they say as little as possible and request an attorney immediately upon believing they are not free to leave. 

After the in car Q & A the officer will tell the subject he is free to leave.  Before allowing him to leave he will ask him one more thing - Can I Search Your Vehicle?  At thsi point the Fourth Amendment Right against unreasonable search and seizure is triggered (if not already triggered).  The smart subject will immediately deny consent and request he be allowed to leave.  Remember its all captured on video camera.  Most officers will require the subject to leave their vehicle.  They may even tell them they are free to leave, but not with their vehicle.  Some officers will wait for a K9 to arrive on scene.  The waiting period may take several minutes.  The longer it takes the better the chances the evidence gets suppresssed.  If the officer does not have a search warrrant, probable cause or consent to search before the K9 arrives they cannot search the car.

If illicit drugs are discovered during the search the subject is typically arrested and held on high bond.  The charges of trafficking carry very heavy sentences ranging from at least 6 years to as many as 120 years.  The time served is at 85%. 

The best move one in this situation can make is to contact a qualified criminal defense attorney with a lot of experience in this field.

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