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Archive for the ‘Fourth Amendment’ tag

Can Police Search Your Phone?

November 14th, 2019 at 10:58 am

searchImagine police pulled you over in a traffic stop. Maybe they suspect you of a DUI, or maybe they want to cite you for having a broken taillight. Whatever the reason, they approach your window and begin to question you. They may even become aggressive and demand that you hand over your phone. Perhaps they even order you to unlock it for them or provide them with your password. This is a scary situation, as everyone has personal and confidential information on their phones these days. The question is, are police allowed to search your phone?

U.S. Supreme Court Decides on Cell Phone Searches

In 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court heard the case of Riley v. California. The defendant had been stopped by police for expired registration tags on his vehicle. During the stop, the officer also learned that the defandant’s driver’s license was suspended and that he was carrying a number of firearms in his car. The officer also took his phone, which the officer claimed had further incriminating evidence on it.

The Supreme Court found in favor of the defendant and determined that police do not have the authority to search a person’s phone. The reason given for this was that modern smartphones have a wealth of information about a person. By accessing your phone, a person could determine where you live, work, what your Social Security number is, and more. The court determined this was an invasion of privacy.

However, although the Supreme Court made this ruling several years ago, there are still some instances in which police can search your phone.

When Can Police Search Your Phone?

Under the Fourth Amendment, all American citizens are protected from unlawful search and seizures. However, if law enforcement has probable cause that your phone contains evidence of a crime, they can obtain a search warrant for your phone. If a judge determines there is probable cause and issues a search warrant, you will have to relinquish your phone so law enforcement can search it.

The only time law enforcement can search your phone without a warrant is when you provide your consent. Police officers often try to get around this by demanding, instead of asking for your phone. They do so in a way that makes individuals feel as though they do not have a choice. Unfortunately, in these instances, if you give police your phone and unlock it to grant them access, even begrudgingly, you have given consent and the police can search your phone.

It is extremely important that you never give police your phone unless they have a warrant. When consent is provided, it could hurt your case if police do in fact find evidence to use against you.

Did Police Unlawfully Search Your Phone? Call Our Illinois Criminal Defense Lawyer

When police unlawfully search your phone, any evidence obtained from that search is inadmissible in court. This provides a solid defense for many offenses, including distracted driving. If you have been charged with a crime after police searched your phone, you need the help of a skilled Rolling Meadows criminal defense lawyer. At the Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley, an attorney will always ensure your rights are upheld, and he will also get illegally obtained evidence thrown out of court. If you are facing charges, call us today at 847-394-3200 to schedule a free consultation.




Probable Cause: When Are Police Allowed to Search a Vehicle without a Warrant?

July 15th, 2015 at 3:45 pm

your rights, Illinois defense lawyer, Illinois criminal attorney,Two of the most common types of criminal charges are drug charges and weapons charges. These two types of cases have something in common. They often involve a police officer searching some area (like a car or a home or a person) and finding an item that is the very basis of the crime, like a gun or drugs. Of course, many people understand that in most situations the police need a warrant to go in and search someone’s home. This is ultimately because of the Fourth Amendment. However what many people do not understand is that, because of some United States Supreme Court decisions, the police usually do not need a warrant to search a vehicle.

Occasionally the Police Need a Warrant to Search a Car

Very often police do not need a warrant to search your vehicle. Certainly, however, there are some exceptions. For example, if your car is being stored in your garage at your home and none of the warrant exceptions apply that would allow the police to search your home without a warrant, then they probably cannot search the car without a warrant (or your permission) either. This is because without your permission or a warrant, they cannot go into the garage. However, if your car were parked on a public street in front of your house, then a warrant likely would not be required.

Most of the Time the Cops Do Not Need a Warrant

Most of the time police officers do not need a warrant to search a car that you are out driving around. This exception to the Fourth Amendment dates back to a case almost as old as automobiles, known as Carroll v. United States. In this case from 1925 the United States Supreme Court ruled that an officer can search an automobile without a warrant so long as the officer has “probable cause” to believe that either evidence or contraband is in the automobile. Probable cause is one of the lowest burdens of proof in our legal system. The reasoning behind this ruling is two-fold.

First of all, since by their very nature cars are movable, there is a real threat of evidence destruction if officers have to wait for a warrant. Secondly, the Court theorized that there is less of an expectation of privacy in a car then there is in a home since cars are operated on public roadways under state regulations. Motor homes that are readily mobile, trailers pulled by trucks, boats, house boats, and airplanes are also covered by this exception.

Call the Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley

If you are the suspect in a crime, or if you have already been charged, you will need help. There are many issues to consider beyond just whether or not you are guilty. In many cases there are important constitutional issues at stake like issues regarding the Fourth Amendment. In these cases you need someone on your side who has an in depth understanding of the law. You will need the help of an experienced Rolling Meadows criminal defense attorney. Call the Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley today at (847)394-3200.

Ignorance of the Law in Illinois

July 1st, 2015 at 4:53 pm

Illinois defense attorney, Illinois criminal lawyer, Illinois criminal justice system,No one knows everything. We are human. However, when it comes to ignorance and the criminal law in Illinois, there is somewhat of a double standard. Criminal defendants are held responsible for their ignorance, but police are not.

What is the Law Regarding Defendants’ Ignorance?

Under Illinois statute, knowledge that certain conduct constitutes an offense is not an element of the offense unless the statute explicitly makes it so. Similarly, knowledge of the existence, meaning, or application of the statute defining the offense is not an element of the offense unless it is included in the offense. In other words, a person does not have to know that his or her conduct is criminal or that there is a law against it in order for that person to be held criminally responsible. A person’s ignorance or mistake as to a matter of either fact or law only provides a defense in extremely limited circumstances, like when the ignorance negates the existence of the mental state required for the crime or the person has relied on certain official interpretations of the law like administrative regulations, statutes, court opinions, or certain other official interpretations.

What is the Law Regarding Police Officers’ Ignorance?

Unlike regular citizens, police officers are often not held responsible when they are ignorant of the law. One example of this double standard comes into play in the search and seizure context. Police officers are not allowed to pull over anyone driving down the road for no reason at all. Traffic stops are considered seizures under the Fourth Amendment to our United States Constitution. Therefore they must be supported by reasonable suspicion or probable cause. This means that the officer must have some basis for believing that the driver or occupants of the car are engaged in or have been engaged in criminal activity. A mere hunch is not enough. This works out when the police officer knows and understands the law that he or she believes may have been broken. But what happens when the police officer is ignorant of the law?

According to the Illinois Supreme Court, the police officer can go ahead and pull you over and have it be a lawful stop even if he or she was ignorant as to the law’s actual meaning and got it wrong. According to the Court, an objectively reasonable, though mistaken, belief as to the meaning of the law may for the basis for a constitutionally valid vehicle stop. As such, even if the officer is ignorant as to the law’s actual meaning, he or she is allowed to pull you over so long as he or she is being “objectively reasonable” in his or her interpretation of the law.

Call the Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley

When you make a mistake regarding the law, you can find yourself facing criminal charges. If this happens to you, you will need the assistance of an experienced Rolling Meadows criminal defense attorney. Call the Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley at (847)394-3200. We will fight for you and help you to obtain the best possible outcome in your case.

How Do You Fight for Your Fourth Amendment Rights in Court?

March 25th, 2015 at 7:54 pm

Illinois criminal defense attorney, Illinois defense lawyer, your rights,Some people charged with crimes are innocent. Other people charged with crimes are guilty. Both deserve a passionate and skilled defense. But in some cases, the court should never even get to the issue of guilt because a more serious issue arises. There are cases where the government violates the United States Constitution, the foundation of our entire justice system. In those cases, more than any other, you need the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney. One of the most common parts of the United States Constitution violated by the government is the Fourth Amendment.

What Does the Fourth Amendment Say?

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects your right not be be subjected to unreasonable searches and seizures by the government. This includes searches of your person, searches of your home, and searches of your stuff. This is the part of the constitution that requires police to get a warrant in order to perform a search unless either (1) you consent to a search or (2) certain exceptions to the warrant requirement are met. Unfortunately, the list of exceptions to the warrant requirement keeps growing and growing, chipping away at our constitutional rights, and each one of them is complicated enough to warrant its own article or articles. But, on a basic level, the Fourth Amendment is the part of the constitution that says the police cannot search you, your home, or your property just because they feel like it. The amendment also prevents unreasonable seizures, or takings, both of you and of your property.

How Can I Assert My Fourth Amendment Rights?

The most important way you can assert your Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures is to speak up. When a police officer asks you permission to take a look around, you can say no. When an officer asks you to sign a permission to search form, you can say no. Now, in some circumstances this is not possible. If police do not ask for permission, you do not have a chance to say no, and putting up a physical resistance will undoubtedly end up in criminal charges, so do not do that. And if they have a warrant, you absolutely have to let them search. But when a police officer gives you the option to say no, you can use it. They may threaten that going and getting a warrant will make things more difficult for you, but they may very well be bluffing because they may not have grounds for a warrant, which is why they are asking for permission in the first place.

Once My Fourth Amendment Rights Have Been Violated, How Does that Affect a Criminal Charge?

Of course, usually you do not get a chance to say no. The police conduct the unlawful search or seizure and you are left wondering what you can do about it. A constitutional violation like this does not lead to your case automatically being dismissed. Instead it can give you the opportunity to file a motion to suppress any evidence obtained as a result of the illegal search. This is allowed under the exclusionary rule. Under this rule, evidence obtained as a result of an illegal search or seizure is inadmissible in court. This means it cannot be used against you. In some cases, like many drug possession cases, this may result in all or almost all of the government’s evidence against you being thrown out.

Call the Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley

When you are charged with a crime, you need an experienced Rolling Meadows criminal defense attorney who is ready to fight for your constitutional rights. You should call the Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley. Christopher Cosley has the experience, knowledge, and passion to fight for you. Our phone number is (847)394-3200.

Racial Profiling by Police

June 17th, 2014 at 7:00 am

Chicago criminal defense attorney, constitutional protection, Fourth Amendment, racial profiling, search and seizure, stop-and-frisk policy, racial bias, Christopher M. Cosley, illegal police behaviorCitizens are bound by constitutional protection, courtesy of the Fourth Amendment, in almost all encounters with police and law enforcement. The specific protections and relevant law of Fourth Amendment search and seizure issues are broad and potentially complex. One such issue addressed in the media recently involved an incident in the Chicago area of Illinois that included allegations of racial profiling by police.

The Incident

In March of this year, two workers were arrested while doing community outreach work on behalf of an organization. On that day, their work involved going door-to-door in a predominantly white southwest Chicago neighborhood in an effort to inform city residents about the then looming deadline to sign up for the Affordable Care Act. While doing so, they were stopped and frisked by Chicago Police Officers and later charged with misdemeanor offenses.

The area had been experiencing a high number of door-to-door scams and one of the residents called 911. When police arrived on scene in response, the men allegedly did not produce identification or other information linking them to their organization. Their charges were dismissed by a judge, but the two Latino men are alleging they were being racially profiled by police at the time of their detention and arrest. Now, some are calling for reform of the stop-and-frisk policies of the Chicago PD, arguing the need for increased police accountability by collecting more information about an officer’s use of the policy of stop-and-frisk.


One of the problems with the current system, regarding the stop-and-frisk policy that advocates of reform argue needs changing, involves contact cards or forms filled out by police officers when making stops on the street. They say that Chicago PD’s contact cards are vague and not easily searched. If this problem was corrected, more information about each incident of stop-and-frisk would be known. Further, the current lack of information, they say, means that communities do not know what is really happening.

Similar reform is occurring in the state of New York, and on the federal level to collect data about stops, searches, and arrests across the country. These efforts are meant to analyze the criminal justice system and reduce any associated effects of racial bias. The concern is that racial disparities contribute to growing tension on both the national and community level, which creates resentment toward law enforcement, and ultimately works against the goal of reducing crime.

In Chicago

The contact cards used by Chicago PD are arguably flawed in several ways: they are not specific enough and not exclusively used during stops. Thus, it makes data difficult to analyze. The data that is available in Chicago tends to show that communities of color are disproportionately targeted for stop-and-frisk activity.

In an effort to address this perceived problem, some are suggesting that Chicago PD be required to provide two key pieces of information regarding stop-and-frisks: why the person is being stopped and why he or she is being searched by police. This increase in information will provide more data and a more accurate picture of the number of people being stopped and frisked, as well as who they are. In addition, the Chicago PD is being asked to maintain a separate database with this information publicly accessible so that any patterns can be tracked.

Criminal Defense Attorney

While it has not been proven that racial profiling existed in the incident recounted above, it does appear to be a problem in Illinois and across the country. If you have been charged with a crime as the result of illegal police behavior, you should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately who can protect your rights. The Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley can defend your case. Contact us today for a consultation in our Rolling Meadows office.

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