Articles Posted in Drug Crimes

Drug DogToday, the United States Supreme Court will be hearing oral arguments on two cases involving drug sniffing dogs.  The facts of each case are different but the legal issues are roughly the same.  What are the 4th Amendment limitations on the use of drug sniffing dogs?

On December 5, 2006 a “crime stopper” had tipped off the police that marijuana was being grown inside the home of Joelis Jardines’ home near Miami Florida.  Armed with this tip, a police officer went to the door of the residence with a trained drug sniffing Labrador Retriever named Franky.  Franky sniffed the door and sat down, continuing to sniff the bottom of the door.  The dog had been trained to give that sign if it smelled marijuana.  The police then obtained a search warrant of Jardines’s home and entered to find Jardines was growing marijuana plants inside the home and charged him with possession of 25 pounds of marijuana and stealing the electricity used to power the equipment used to help grow the marijuana.  The Florida Supreme Court invalidated the search by finding that Franky’s sniff was an “unreasonable government intrusion into the sanctity of the home” and found that there was a greater expectation of privacy in a home than in a motor vehicle.  The Florida Supreme Court cited a 2001 United States Supreme Court decision written by Justice Antonin Scalia in which the court ruled that it was presumptive unreasonable for the authorities to use a heat detecting device to scan the inside of a home to determine whether marijuana was being grown inside the home.  The issue in this case is whether the police can use a drug sniffing dog for a residence like they did with the heating device.

The case is Florida v. Jardines, 11-564.

An Aurora man entering the Kane County Courthouse in St. Charles set off the metal detector. Deputies asked him to empty his pockets and when he did so he placed a small plastic bag or what appeared to be cocaine in the tray. He was arrested by Kane County Deputies and charged with Possession of a Controlled Substance. The incident happened last week at around 8:30 a.m. This is a busy time at the courthouse when several hundred people are lining up to enter the courthouse. The screening is similar to the type of screening you would expect at an airport. You must pass through a metal detector and are required to empty your pockets before going through security.

This individual, who will remain unnamed in this article, will receive the Moron of the Week Award.

James Dimeas is an award winning criminal defense attorney and author with more than 24 years of experience aggressively representing his clients in criminal cases.  If you have a criminal case in Illinois, contact me in Chicago (312-229-5500), DuPage and Kane (630-504-2096) or Lake (847-696-6458) for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your legal options.

imagesqtbnANd9GcQqR4Dz_uJGafmoHScPDeNzYZcWF8nOZr5yYXTErMMwySXKQFF9The Cook County State’s Attorney Deferred Prosecution Program is a diversion program for adult felony defendants without a prior felony conviction that have been arrested for non-violent crimes. Participation to the program is at the sole discretion of the State’s attorney.

The program placed the defendant into a 12 month intensive  program. Upon completion of the program, the State will then dismiss the case. The Defendant can then file to have the arrest record expunged upon dismissal. In Cook County, due to delays, it takes 6  to 12 months to have the arrest record expunged after the Petition to Expunge is filed.

However, only probationable  offences of  Theft, Retail Theft, Forgery, Possession of a Stolen Motor Vehicle, Burglary, Possession  of Burglary Tools, Possession of Cannabis, Possession of a Controlled Substance, and Possession of Methamphetamine are eligible for the program.

Last week the United States Supreme Court ruled on a case that we have been following closely.  The case involves Antoine Jones, a Washington, D.C. nightclub owner.  Washington police placed a GPS tracking device on his vehicle, without a warrant.  They followed him around for about a month and linked him to a known drug stash house.  He was eventually arrested and charged with numerous drug offenses.  He was eventually convicted of distributing cocaine and was sentenced to life in prison.  The question in this case became whether police need to obtain a warrant before placing a GPS device on someone’s vehicle?  On August 27, 2010, we reported about a decision out of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals which ruled that law enforcement authorities can place a GPS tracking device on a suspect’s vehicle without the need to obtain a warrant.  On August 6, 2010, we reported that the Washington, D.C. Court of appeals had ruled in Jones’s case that the police were required to obtain a warrant before placing a GPS device on a suspect’s vehicle.  This split of authority set up a confrontation that was ripe for resolution by the United States Supreme Court.  On November 11, 2011 we reported that the United States Supreme Court had heard oral arguments on the Jones case.  We reported that several of the justices indicated that they were skeptical of the government’s position that a warrant was not needed.  The majority of the court agreed that in this specific case, which involves the placing of a GPS device on a suspects vehicle, a warrant was needed.  The majority reasoned that when the police placed the GPS device on Antoine Jones’ vehicle, they had committed an illegal trespass and that the evidence obtained could not be used because the government had violated the law in order to obtain the information.  But what the Supreme Court did not answer was whether the public had a “reasonable expectation of privacy” when it comes to electronic surveillance.  Nor did they discuss what the limits of that expectation of privacy are.  Justice Alito criticized the majority for “kicking the can down the road” by not discussing what the public’s reasonable expectation of privacy was in their electronics.  At this point, it looks like the decision is limited to the placing of GPS devices on suspect’s vehicles but still leaves open the question of whether our cell phones can be tracked, internet usage or even video surveillance of our movements in public can be monitored by the government without the need to obtain a warrant.  What can we do in private and how far can the government go in following us around and looking into what we do, who we talk to and where we go?

There is currently a case in the Federal District Court of Arizona that is being watched closely that could eventually make its way up to the United States Supreme Court.  This case involves the use of a cell phone tracking device called “stingray” to track suspects without their knowledge.  This device is used by the Defense Department.  A cell phone tower is set up to mimic an actual cell phone tower.  When a suspect’s cell phone is turned on, the cell phone tower connects to the cell phone and it monitors the movements of the suspect.  The attorney for the suspect in the Arizona case asked for discovery to determine how this “stingray” system works and the FBI is refusing to disclose this information.  The FBI considers this device to be so critical and so important, that they fear that disclosing details about it would be dangerous to the public.  This issue is being litigated in the Arizona case and it could very well make its way all the way up to the United States Supreme Court.

James Dimeas is an award winning criminal defense attorney and author with more than 24 years of experience aggressively representing his clients in criminal cases.  If you have a criminal case in Illinois, contact me in Chicago (312-229-5500), DuPage and Kane (630-504-2096) or Lake (847-696-6458) for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your legal options.

On April 21, 2009, we published an article about the Supreme Court’s decision in Arizona v. Gant.  In this case, The Supreme Court severely limited police officers power to search vehicles after an arrest. In Arizona v. Gant, the defendant had been pulled over for a traffic violation.  The police officer determined that he did not have a valid license and placed him under arrest.  The defendant was handcuffed and placed in the back of the police vehicle. The officer then searched the vehicle and discovered a gun and drugs. The Supreme Court ruled that the search of the vehicle was unreasonable and ruled that the evidence seized in the search had to be suppressed. The court held that in order for the police to search the vehicle the defendant had to be close enough to the vehicle as to pose a risk that he could grab a weapon out of the car or that the police had a reasonable belief that they would find evidence related to the reason that the defendant had been arrested.

Today I used this case to win a motion to suppress on an Aggravated Unlawful Use of a Weapon By a Felon charge at 26th and California. The facts of my client’s case were very similar to the facts in Gant. The defendant was pulled over because his license plate light was not working. The officer asked my client for his license but he could not produce one because it had been revoked for a prior DUI. The officer testified that he placed handcuffs on my client and put him in the back seat of his squad car. There was a passenger in the front seat. A check of the passenger’s name revealed an outstanding traffic warrant and he was handcuffed and placed in the back seat of the squad car as well. The officer then proceeded to search my client’s vehicle finding a loaded handgun in the back seat area of his vehicle. The state argued that this search was actually an inventory search and that the officer was following Chicago Police procedure. However, the officer admitted that he did not produce an inventory report and could only state that “miscellaneous” items were retrieved from the vehicle in the inventory search.

The court found that an inventory search would be an exception but that what the officer testified to could not be deemed to be an inventory search. The officer did not produce an inventory report and could only remember that “miscellaneous” other items were found. Since the defendant and his passenger were in handcuffs in the back seat of the squad car, and the only reason for the arrest of the defendant was that he had no driver’s license, the police needed a warrant to search the vehicle.  My Motion to Suppress was granted and all the evidence seized by the police as a result of the illegal search of his vehicle will not be admitted at trial.  This effectively destroys the state’s case.  Without the gun, they have no case.  The case has been continued but the state will be forced to dismiss the case.