You like to walk at night. A police officer thought your presence late at night was suspicious so he stopped you. You didn’t want him to find the concealed weapon or the cocaine in your pocket, so you ran. Now you are charged with possession of a controlled substance as well as obstructing justice.

Can they do that? What can you do?

Whether your flight gives police grounds for arrest may depend on if you fled an arrest or a lawful investigatory stop rather than an unlawful investigatory stop. The Fourth Amendment protects you from illegal searches and seizures. You are not required to answer police questions. If the officer does not have a lawful reason to stop you at the beginning, your flight alone cannot justify an arrest.

However, if the officer had a lawful reason to stop you or the officer was arresting you. your flight may then raise grounds for suspicion and justify a later arrest. The evidence uncovered after your arrest may be admitted even if the officer’s original basis for arresting you was not legal.

For example, an officer stops you because you are in the park at night looking nervous. Nervousness by itself is not lawful grounds for a stop. The police must first have a reasonable, articulable suspicion of wrongdoing at the time he stops you. If the officer merely wanted to frisk you because you seemed nervous, your flight does not justify a later arrest.

Now let’s say the officer wants to stop you because he sees you carrying items that were just reported stolen or he had a tip that someone matching your description just fled the scene of a crime. The officer now has a legal reason to stop you, and your flight gives him or her grounds for arrest.

But let’s say the officer starts arresting you without a reason other than that you look nervous. You run. The arrest is now justified by your flight. Even though the original arrest was illegal, your flight can be used against you. Instead of being able to suppress the original unlawful arrest, you must now deal with an arrest lawfully based on your flight.

If you are charged with a crime, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case for its best possible defense. If your flight was the basis of an unlawful arrest, an attorney can petition the court to suppress the arrest along with any resulting evidence.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email

Source: People v Shipp.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

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