Today I received a nice surprise in the mail. This thank you card from a former client:
This client was stopped by Chicago Police after someone called in a report of a drunk driver. The caller gave specific information as to the make and model of the vehicle, the license plate number and a direction and street where it was traveling. A few blocks away from there, a police officer saw the vehicle, and without observing any moving violation, made an immediate traffic stop. My client pulled over promptly and stopped his car.
As a result of the traffic stop, the officer was able to confirm that my client was indeed intoxicated.
I filed a Motion to Suppress Evidence, alleging that the stop was unconstitutional in violation of Terry v. Ohio (1968), 392 U.S. 1, 20 L.Ed.2d 889, 88 S.Ct. 1868, Florida v. J.L., 529 U.S. 266, 120 S.Ct. 1375 (2000) and several Illinois cases that require that an informant tip must be corroborated in order to justify a traffic stop. This is to ensure that the informant is actually calling in a truthful and correct report. Otherwise, the police would be authorized to stop anyone because someone with a vendetta or who thinks every bad driver is drunk calls in a report. In this case, the officer did not observe any bad driving, or any vehicle infraction before pulling over my client. In fact, the officer testified that he observed my client for less than two seconds before signalling him to stop.
After a hearing, the Motion was granted, and the judge suppressed all evidence that had been obtained after the stop from being admitted into evidence at trial. After the State’s Motion to Reconsider the decision was denied, the State elected to dismiss the case as there was insufficient evidence remaining to support a conviction.
Some may say that dismissing a case is a harsh remedy for a mere technical violation of one’s Constitutional rights. I don’t agree. (And not everyone agrees on this issue; Supreme Court Chief Justice Roberts has indicated that he would vote to overturn this legal rule because he doesn’t see why the police should have to wait until someone commits a traffic violation, or god forbid, causes an accident, before making a traffic stop). However, even if you agree with Chief Justice Roberts and not me, keep in mind that my client did suffer a penalty: he was arrested, fingerprinted, jailed, had to a pay a large impoundment fee to get his car back, had a six month license suspension, had to pay attorney’s fees, and deal with multiple court dates. As you can see from his thank you card, he says that “this whole experience has most definitely changed my life.”