Pubdate: Thu, 18 May 2006
Source: Daily Herald (IL)
Copyright: 2006 The Daily Herald Company
Author: Ann Sanner


SPRINGFIELD - A deeply divided Illinois Supreme Court gave police 
broad authority Thursday to use drug-sniffing dogs to inspect cars 
during routine traffic stops, a move critics call an erosion of 
personal liberty.

The Illinois attorney general's office, however, applauded the ruling 
for giving police more freedom to use "an invaluable tool."

The court's 4-3 majority found that a dog sniffing the exterior of a 
car does not constitute an unreasonable search.

"A dog sniff will not reveal the contents of diaries or love letters; 
it will not reveal the individual's choice of reading materials, 
whether religious, political or pornographic; it will not reveal 
sexual orientation or marital infidelity," Justice Rita Garman wrote.

The case, which already has been to the U.S. Supreme Court, involves 
Roy Caballes, who was stopped on I-80 in 1998 for driving 6 mph over 
the speed limit. Although Caballes lawfully produced his driver's 
license, troopers brought over a drug dog after noticing air 
freshener in the car and noting Caballes appeared nervous.

The dog indicated drugs were in the trunk, and police searched it 
even though Caballes refused to give permission. They found $250,000 
worth of marijuana, and Caballes was convicted of drug trafficking.

Initially, the verdict was thrown out by the Illinois Supreme Court, 
which ruled in 2003 the use of a drug dog was improper because police 
had no particular reason to suspect Caballes had drugs. But the U.S. 
Supreme Court found that a dog sniffing the outside of a car did not 
amount to an improper search.

The case was sent back to Illinois for further action, and Caballes 
challenged his conviction again by arguing that the Illinois 
Constitution's privacy protections are stronger than those in the 
U.S. Constitution.

This time, the Illinois court upheld the search, although Justices 
Charles Freeman, Mary Ann McMorrow and Thomas Kilbride dissented.

Freeman said he sees "several serious flaws" in the U.S. Supreme 
Court ruling in the case, which should force the Illinois court to 
reject the inspection of Caballes' car.

Caballes could face a 12-year prison sentence after eight years of 
being free, said his attorney, Ralph Meczyk, who said he was studying 
the ruling and didn't know if he would appeal.

He called the ruling "truly an erosion of our Fourth Amendment rights."

Meczyk said police could use minor traffic offenses as a pretext for 
inspections by drug dogs. "Once there is a reason to stop them, now 
you can begin a drug investigation," he said.

He also said that minorities, selected because of racial profiling, 
could be the most common targets for inspections by drug-sniffing dogs.

But Illinois Solicitor General Gary Feinerman said the attorney 
general's office is pleased with the decision.

"Such dogs provide an invaluable law enforcement tool that allows 
police to intercept drugs and narcotics before they make their way 
into our cities, towns and neighborhoods," Feinerman said.

People's privacy rights aren't infringed because the dog is outside 
the car, Feinerman said.

"There is no invasion of privacy simply when a dog sniffs the air 
outside of a car," he said. "And because there is not invasion of 
privacy, there's no constitutional violation."

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