The Legality of Terry Stops Involving Informants in Illinois

Illinois residents are protected against illegal searches and seizures under the state and federal constitutions. Challenging the legality of a police search is an effective way to combat many criminal charges because prosecutors cannot use evidence which has been illegally obtained.

Chicago police officers have the right to stop and question a person if they have a “reasonable suspicion” that criminal activity is afoot. These stops are often called “Terry Stops” because they were legalized in a landmark Supreme Court case called Terry v. Ohio.

In that case, the Supreme Court held that “an officer may, within the parameters of the fourth amendment, conduct a brief, investigatory stop of a citizen when the officer has a reasonable, articulable suspicion of criminal activity, and such suspicion amounts to more than a mere ‘hunch.’ ”

The legality of a Terry stop depends on the totality of the circumstances. Courts look at many factors in determining whether an officer had a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity.

Terry stops are complicated when informants are present. In these cases, courts look at factors such as an informant’s veracity, reliability, and the basis of the informant’s knowledge which spurred the stop.

The reliability of informants, especially anonymous informants, is an excellent way to overcome criminal charges. An experienced Chicago criminal defense attorney will analyze police records and find ways to attack the credibility of an informant.

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