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Jul. 13 2018

You’re Riding the L Train – Can Cops Just Search You for Drugs?   

Posted By: Sami Azhari

You're Riding the L Train – Can Cops Just Search You for Drugs?   

If you are riding a bus or train in Chicago, can the cops conduct a search on you for drugs? Are you always protected against searches and seizures? Learn more about search and seizure laws and how they apply to drug trafficking in Illinois.

How Fourth Amendment Protection Applies to Illinois Public Transportation

You are protected under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution from unlawful search and seizure by law enforcement officers.

The Fourth Amendment reads as such:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

In short, the police cannot typically search you for illegal drugs unless they have probable cause of possession, manufacturing, or distribution. The courts abide by a “reasonable” standard, meaning what most people would consider a normal right to privacy under similar circumstances. So, when you are riding the L train or a city bus, a search and seizure will only be lawful under “reasonable” circumstances.

Illinois Privacy Rights – What You Can Expect

When you have a “legitimate expectation to privacy,” you are under the Fourth Amendment’s shield of protection. This means that if you did not expect the item to be private, it is reasonable for the police to search and seize the property without a warrant.

The court system will consider whether you actually expected privacy and whether your expectation to privacy is reasonable in terms of societal expectations.

For example, when you are in your home, your expectation to privacy is highly reasonable. The police will almost always need a warrant to search your home and seize any unlawful items.

Public restrooms are also protected by the expectation of privacy. You have the right not to be searched there under reasonable circumstances.

Rules Applying to Searches and Seizures in Chicago

When you are riding on a bus or train, the court will uphold your expectation of privacy regarding a briefcase, bag, or purse most of the time. However, if your purse or bag was wide open on the bus or train with drugs plainly in sight, your expectation of privacy would not be upheld in court.

Rules Applying to Searches and Seizures in Chicago

If the evidence against you was obtained through an unlawful search and seizure, in most cases it cannot be used as evidence against you in court.

This exclusionary rule prevents police from unlawfully searching you and seizing evidence with zero consequences for failure to follow protocol.

The “fruit of the poisonous tree” rule says that if additional evidence is discovered in an unlawful search and seizure, such as a map or more contraband, neither the original nor additional evidence can be admissible in court.

Another rule is that private security personnel have more rights than police for searches and seizures. For example, a mall cop can rifle through your bag with probable cause, but a regular cop cannot. The Fourth Amendment only applies to those working for the government, not privately-contracted individuals.

It’s important to know that if a security officer finds illegal drugs on you or in your bag, briefcase, or purse, he or she can detain you and turn the evidence over to police. This evidence will be admissible in a court of law.

How a Knowledgeable Illinois Criminal Attorney Can Help

If you have been arrested on drug trafficking charges after a search and seizure in Illinois, it’s essential for you to contact a skilled criminal defense lawyer to represent you in your case.

The penalties for a drug trafficking conviction in Illinois are harsh. In most cases, drug trafficking will be a felony that may be prosecutable at the federal level, resulting in high fines and mandatory minimum prison sentences. That’s why it’s important to contact an Illinois criminal attorney as soon as charges are filed against you.

Skokie Drug Lawyer

We will look at all the details of the arrest and determine whether the search and seizure will be considered reasonable by the court. If our investigation indicates that the search was illegal, we will work to prove that the evidence is inadmissible. If other evidence exists against you in the case, we will use the strongest defenses to get your charges reduced or dropped.


Call today for your free legal consultation with a knowledgeable Illinois drug crimes attorney. We’ll fight against your charges and work hard to produce the best possible outcome for you.


About the Author

Sami Azhari has been working as a lawyer since 2007, after receiving his Juris Doctor from the Michigan State University College of Law. He has handled numerous state and federal cases, and is known throughout the Chicago and Rolling Meadows area for providing his clients with high-quality, skilled representation. He has been recognized by SuperLawyers, the National Trial Lawyers Association, and other notable organizations, and has spoken at a number of legal conferences.