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Issues that Must be Fully Developed in ISP Trooper Drug Interdiction Cases

Time after time the pattern remains the same.  You are stopped by an Illinois State Police Trooper while travelling on Interstate 70 or 55 in southern Illinois.  The reason given for the stop is a "Fatal 5" violation (i.e. speeding, improper lane use, following too closely, distracted driving, and sometimes DUI(but not very often)).  You are an out of state driver.  The license plates on your vehicle are from another state.  Your vehicle probably is a rental vehicle.  The trooper asks you to join him inside his squad while he fills out paperwork regarding the initial claimed violation.  You are convinced you did not violate any traffic laws despite what the trooper claims.  However, you believe that by agreeing with the trooper he will be "more lenient" on you.  He starts up a conversation in the squad car.  Where are you coming from?  Why didn't you fly?  Where are you going?  What purpose are you travelling?  Are you nervous?  He eventually issues a warning.  As you walk to your vehicle he stops to ask you one more thing.  Can I search your car?  

I see this fact pattern in money laundering and drug trafficking cases in almost every case.  Oftentimes the trooper has already received information about you from the DEA who is working with a confidential informant.  The CI has told when the drugs or money would be leaving towards a destination.  A description of the vehicle or driver is given along with whatever is being transported (drugs, money).  The DEA tells the trooper that he has to "make his own case" in order to stop your vehicle.  That means "don't tell anyone you received this confidential tip."  The trooper is on the lookout for the vehicle.  Oftentimes the vehicle is already equipped with a GPS device allowing police to track your car.  If a GPS is affixed to the car that fact will not be mentioned in the narrative police report.  Neither will the CI lead.  Your attorney has to attempt to determine those facts on his own.  

When you receive the narrative police report the trooper will claim things about you that will be shocking.  They will claim you were breathing at a rate faster than normal, your heartbeat was accelerated, you were talking quickly, you were avoiding eye contact, etc.  There are so many kinesiology items listed in reports that their claims can be almost anything.  In one report you may be characterized as trying to hide something by not talking to the police.  In another you can be speaking too much as if trying to divert the officer's attention.  There seems to be no manner of acting that would not rise to a level of suspicion in the trooper's report.  The reason the trooper is trying to create suspicion is to legitimize a search of your vehicle.  

Police can search a vehicle under the Carroll Doctrine if they smell cannabis, a K9 reacts positively to the presence of an illicit substance, you consent to a search, they have a warrant, or if they have a reasonable suspicion to believe a violation of law has occurred or is occurring.  The last factor is why the troopers add all the kinesiology claims into their reports.  They are thinking forward to the possibility that if a judge is determining whether they developed a suspicion to belive a crime was underway they want to present all the facts they can claim led them to that conclusion.  One trooper, Nate McVicker has this content included in his Linked In profile:

Nate is a veteran patrol officer with over 17 years of experience concentrating on criminal interdiction - a focus on identifying all threats, all crimes and all hazards. Nate has instructed criminal interdiction to well over 6,000 police officers and attorneys in 43 states and has been asked to speak overseas on the vast topics of this field.  Nate is also an expert in subconscious communication, kinesics (the study of body language), and courtroom testimony.

This type of testimony has been considered in the past by various courts to be "uncredible" or flat out a lie.  One court has called the trooper a "human polygraph machine."  U.S. v. Mario A. Rodriguez-Escalara (2018)(7th Cir.) explains the rationale for affirming Judge Yandle's order granting a motion to suppress in a case involved Trooper Ken Patterson.  See also U.S. v. Zambrana (S.Dist. Ill. 2004) 04-2311.  

When determining the best course of action to take in defending a trafficking or money laundering case the attorney should fully look into any published cases involving the officers to determine whether their credibility has been tested in court.  If it has and a court has deemed them to be less than credible you can use precedent to bolster your position at a motion to suppress hearing.  Always obtain all discovery you are entitled to prior to conducting a motion hearing.  Sometimes you won't be able to secure the discovery prior to.  Especially when the stop is based on a Walled Off or Whisper Stop (see Library article on those topics).  If you learn of that information during a motion hearing merely request a continuance so you can obtain further discovery.  


Brian L. Polinske
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