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Proposed Bill Would Limit Police Searches in Traffic Stops for Suspected Cannabis DUI

 Posted on April 11, 2023 in Criminal Defense

Cook County Defense AttorneyIllinois lawmakers are considering a new law that would change how law enforcement is allowed to handle traffic stops that involve the odor of marijuana. Although recreational marijuana was made legal in 2020, driving under the influence of the drug is still illegal and can result in criminal charges and license suspension.

Illinois Traffic Stops

There are a number of rights that protect people from overzealous law enforcement. When it comes to an officer pulling drivers over, the officer must have a legitimate reason for doing so. A driver can be stopped for breaking major infractions, such as speeding or reckless driving, but an officer can also stop a vehicle for what may appear to be minor infractions, such as having a broken brake or taillight. It is often stops for these minor infractions that result in DUI arrests.

The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution protects citizens from illegal searches and seizures. If an officer has pulled a driver over, they cannot just search the vehicle unless they have probable cause.

Under current Illinois, drivers are required to keep their cannabis products stored in odor-proof containers when transporting them in vehicles. This means that if an officer smells marijuana during a traffic stop, that gives them probable cause to search a vehicle in an effort to determine if the driver is driving under the influence of marijuana.

But if the proposed law is passed, then drivers would no longer be required to store cannabis in odor-proof containers, eliminating probable cause for an officer to search the vehicle. An odor of marijuana would no longer give police the right to search. Law enforcement would still be able to search if they saw smoke coming out of the vehicle or if the driver appeared to be intoxicated.

The lawmakers behind the bill say it stems from a recent case in Will County where a driver was arrested because the arresting officer smelled a “strong odor of burnt cannabis emitting from the vehicle.” The defendant told the officer someone had smoked in the vehicle but it had been some time ago. The defense’s argument was that the scent of cannabis stays on items for extended periods of time. Currently, two other state courts, Colorado and Vermont, have made similar rulings.

The bill does not change the current laws for driving under the influence of marijuana.

Contact a Cook County Defense Attorney

If you have been arrested and charged with DUI, you need a skilled Lake County criminal law attorney representing you. Call The Law Offices of Matthew R. Gebhardt, P.C. at 847-239-4703 to schedule a free and confidential consultation.




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