Can Your Car be Searched During a DUI Arrest in Illinois?

Updated on 10/11/2021 / Under

Every year in the United States around 1.5 million drivers are arrested for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. While this number has been, thankfully, dropping every year, some people still make the mistake of driving while under the influence of drugs or the influence of alcohol.

A blood alcohol content of .08 or more is considered legally drunk for personal use vehicle drivers in the state of Illinois. Anything above .04 is considered legally drunk for commercial vehicle drivers. Additional charges are added if your blood alcohol content is above .16. These punishments include fines, jail time, license suspension, community service, and even drug or alcohol treatments such as out-patient rehab or attendance of AA/NA meetings. 

If you find yourself in a situation of being stopped and arrested for a DUI, contact Naperville DUI Attorneys as soon as possible, to appeal the suspension of your license and to fight against your DUI charges. Naperville DUI Criminal Defense Attorneys believe that everyone is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law and want to fight for you. Call our firm today at (630) 425-0250 to schedule a free consultation and learn how we can help.

DUI checkpoints are legal in Illinois, to an extent. At a DUI checkpoint or traffic stop, drivers are only required to present their license, registration, and proof of insurance. You are not required to answer any questions asked by the officer, allow them to search your vehicle, submit to blood alcohol testing, a Breathalyzer, or field sobriety tests.

However, in the state of Illinois, you can be punished for refusing any of these tests, even though you have the right to refuse. This punishment includes the suspension of your license and may even include costs related to taking the test at a later date, and this refusal can be used against you. If you are arrested and charged with a DUI, you will be subjected to chemical testing after your arrest and booking.

While DUI checkpoints are legal, certain circumstances may threaten that legality. These checkpoints are subject to various rules, such as the law enforcement officers needing to publicly post these checkpoints, only check every third driver, etc. A DUI attorney is able to subpoena all information regarding these checkpoints and, if the rules were not followed, can get your charges dropped. 

An image of a DUI checkpoint

Whether or not you believe a checkpoint to be legal, you must still follow all orders given to you by the police during a checkpoint to avoid further charges such as drunk and disorderly, or resisting arrest. 

You are legally allowed to avoid a DUI checkpoint, but the departmental policy for many police departments is to follow and pull over any persons who attempt to avoid DUI checkpoints. Even if you are avoiding a checkpoint because you are running late you will most likely be pulled over. If you feel the need to avoid a checkpoint, the best idea is to either pull into a gas station and go inside or to pull down a side street rather than performing a u-turn or stopping on the side of the road. 

Related: Debunking 8 Common DUI Myths

Can the Police Search Your Person?

If you are being detained, police are able to do a cursory pat-down of your person if they believe you are in possession of a weapon. Known as the Terry Frisk, officers are able to frisk in search of a weapon. They can not reach into your pockets unless they are removing something they reasonably believe to be a weapon.

However, if you have been lawfully placed under arrest, police officers are allowed to do a full search of your body, including but not limited to searching pockets and, in some extreme cases, even a cavity search to look for illegal drugs or anything else you may be hiding. Cavity searches should never be performed outside of police stations, except in extreme circumstances. 

 There is no warrant requirement to search your person if you have been arrested. Anything found on your person during a search can be used against you, and in some cases may even give them enough probable cause to perform a subsequent search of your vehicle. All of the items found on your person will be confiscated and taken into evidence. Anything that is taken and police consider connected to your crime can and will be taken via civil asset forfeiture. 

Can the Police Search Your Car?

A lawful arrest, even for a DUI, is not enough to give police the right to search through your car. Police must have enough probable cause, permission from you, or a search warrant, to be able to search your vehicle. If the police ask you for permission to search your personal vehicle, the 4th amendment protects your right to refuse that search, with no penalty.

If police retaliate against you for refusing to consent to a search, this is a violation of your rights and should be reported. Unreasonable searches can and do happen. If you feel as though the police officers have performed an unreasonable search on your vehicle, remember as much as you can about the officers, the location, and the time. This information can be invaluable to your criminal defense lawyer to win your case. 

Law enforcement officers are able to do a plain view search, by looking through your car windows, without a warrant requirement. Anything that is in plain sight, such as the seats or floor of your car, is not included in an expectation of privacy and this is not considered a vehicle search.

However, if an officer reaches into your open door and opens closed containers, or a passenger compartment, without probable cause, this is considered an illegal search. If they see anything in plain view, such as empty or open bottles or any other illegal items, illegal drugs, or drug paraphernalia, this will give them enough probable cause to search your vehicle and confiscate anything they find as evidence against you. 

Car be Searched During a DUI

In more recent years, police have stopped using odors as enough probable cause to search someone's vehicle. Odors can be coming from anywhere around where you have been pulled over, and even the smell of alcohol is not enough to prove someone has been drinking. Bartenders and other restaurant employees, for example, often smell of the alcohol they have been serving to restaurant and bar patrons, and are out late at night because of the hours they work, but have consumed no alcohol.

Even with probable cause, officers are still required to follow certain rules while searching your car. One of these rules is that car searches may not take an undue amount of time. If the police spend too long searching your car, this may be a violation of your rights. 

If your car has been searched without your permission, and you do not feel as though the officers had enough probable cause to search through your vehicle legally, or the police spent an undue amount of time searching your car, during a DUI checkpoint or routine traffic stop, contact the experienced attorneys at our Naperville DUI Law Firm as soon as possible for legal help and advice. Unlawful searches do happen, and an experienced Naperville DUI attorney will be able to use this to help your case. 

What Happens to Your Car After a DUI?

After a DUI arrest, you may be concerned about what will happen to your car. If you are arrested for a DUI, your license will be suspended 46 days following the arrest. This means you are still able to drive after your release, but where is your car and how do you get to it? 

If the driver of a vehicle is arrested, but there is a sober passenger in the car, the police may allow the passenger to take possession of the car, as long as the owner of the car allows this. You are also allowed to contact a family member or friend to come and collect your car for you.

The most common outcome, however, is that the police will call and have the vehicle towed to an impound lot, costing the driver or owner hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars in towing and impound fees to retrieve their vehicle. The police are also able to place a hold on impounded cars if they reasonably believe the driver or owner is still intoxicated upon their release. 

If your car is taken to an impound lot, police are able to search your vehicle through a loophole called an “Inventory Search”. This search allows officers into all parts of your car, including the glove compartment, trunk, underneaths seats, and inside of any other compartments.

This is the only legal warrantless search, with the exception of a consensual search with permission given by the vehicle owner. Because of this loophole, your best option as a vehicle owner is to contact someone to collect your car from the scene, so that it is not impounded and police are unable to perform an inventory search. 

What to do if Your Car Was Searched During a DUI Arrest

If you have been arrested for driving under the influence and police searched your car you need legal defense. Our firm regularly handles all types of DUI cases in DuPage County and throughout the surrounding areas. Call us today at (630) 425-0250 to learn how an attorney can help you with a DUI and schedule a free consultation.