Pubdate: Fri, 19 May 2006
Source: State Journal-Register (IL)
Copyright: 2006 The State Journal-Register
Author: Dana Heupel,  Copley News Service
Note: Includes readers online responses as of date hawked at end of article.


State Justices Vote 4-3 In Favor Of Constitutionality

In a narrow decision, the Illinois Supreme Court reversed itself 
Thursday and ruled that police can use drug-sniffing dogs to search 
vehicles during routine traffic stops.

By a 4-3 vote, the court decided that the drug-trafficking arrest of 
a driver stopped in 1998 for speeding on Interstate 80 in LaSalle 
County did not violate his constitutional rights. The man was charged 
with the drug offense after a police canine detected marijuana in his 
car while an officer was writing the traffic ticket.

In 2003, the state Supreme Court had ruled that Roy Caballes' rights 
of privacy and protection from an unreasonable search had been 
violated and overturned his conviction. But in January 2005, the U.S. 
Supreme Court vacated that ruling and sent his case back to the state 
court for another hearing.

An Illinois State Police trooper had stopped Caballes, who then lived 
in Las Vegas, for driving six miles per hour over the speed limit. 
When the trooper radioed a dispatcher, an officer with a drug dog 
overheard the transmission and drove to the site. While the speeding 
citation was being written, the canine sniffed Caballes' car and 
alerted the officers. They found 280 pounds of the illegal substance 
in the trunk.

Caballes was convicted in 1999 and sentenced to 12 years in prison 
and fined $256,136, the reported street value of the marijuana.

In appealing the verdict, Caballes' attorney, Ralph Meczyk of 
Chicago, argued the search was illegal because officers had no cause 
to look for drugs during a routine traffic stop. Meczyk also worried 
that the ultimate decision could have a broad effect on how far 
police could go in conducting searches.

The Illinois State Bar Association, the Office of the Cook County 
Public Defender and the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois 
filed briefs with the court supporting Meczyk's arguments.

Thursday's majority opinion, written by Justice Rita Garman, said the 
"defendant's concerns about 'widespread' abuse of the use of police 
canine units and 'overwhelming numbers' of innocent subjects are pure 

Meczyk said Thursday he is looking at other possible legal options, 
although he couldn't say what they might be."I'm still parsing 
through the opinion," he said. "I don't know where I'm going from 
here, but I am exploring other avenues."

Illinois Solicitor General Gary Feinerman, who had argued the 
prosecution's case before the Illinois Supreme Court, responded 
Thursday: "He already lost under the federal Constitution, and this 
is the state Constitution. I don't know where he could go."

When the case returned to the state court after the U.S. Supreme 
Court ruled Caballes' federal rights had not been violated, Meczyk 
had argued that Caballes was protected by the Illinois Constitution.

In Thursday's reversal of its earlier decision, the state court said 
the Illinois Constitution's protections against illegal searches were 
"in lockstep" with those in the federal document, forcing the ruling 
against Caballes the second time around. Three of the seven justices dissented.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan argued the case before the 
U.S. Supreme Court.

Feinerman, who was appointed by Madigan, said Thursday that the 
attorney general's office is pleased with the decision because 
"drug-detecting dogs are a valuable means of interdicting narcotics 
before they reach our cities, towns and neighborhoods."

Reader Comments

cessch wrote at 5/20/2006 12:59:49 AM

whatever happened to innocent till proven guilty. what about the 
presumption of innocence. i don't think its good to presume everyone 
is a possible suspect. if u have nothing to hide please. even if 
drugs were legal i don't a substantial number of people would want to 
throw their lives away. and those that don't care are determined to 
self destructive behaviours anyway. cameras, dogs, all this non 
- -sense what hysteria!

Laura wrote at 5/19/2006 12:31:35 PM

My comment is on some of the other comments. It is riduculous to 
protect our drug trafficers because we don't want to spend the money 
to "house" them in jails. It is worth the money! It also riduculous 
to not want to be inconvenienced by a K-9 dog sniffing your car for a 
few minutes if you have nothing to hide, no matter what color you are.

To cherelle wrote at 5/19/2006 10:59:09 AM

If you've got nothing to hide, then why worry? Yes, "innocent" people 
do get stopped from time to time, that's going to happen. However, 
you say you want protection, no drugs in the community, etc, etc. I 
ask you then, why would you want to take away a very valuable tool 
that helps law enforcement achieve that goal, especially by 
justifying your reasons that it will be unfairly used? In my opinion 
that's that claim of someone who's guilty. I've been stopped, had a 
dog run around my car. It didn't indicate. I was in an area known for 
dope. They're doing their job! Trying walking (or working) a mile in 
the shoes of law enforcement. If you truly want what you claim, which 
I question, let them do their jobs. How else would you have them 
work, by ESP???

Roger wrote at 5/19/2006 10:49:18 AM

Those who believe this decision will have an adverse impact upon 
someone of the 'wrong color' personify the prevailing ignorance. 
Regardless of your color, the dogs will only indicate upon detecting 
the odor of cannabis and/or illegal drugs; canines are 'color-blind'. 
The simple moral of this story is: Regardless of your color - If you 
don't possess drugs, you won't have to worry about a drug dog.

cherelle wrote at 5/19/2006 10:15:23 AM

I think that this will only allow for more abuses by those in 
authority, not to mention, profiling. I truly understand the ills of 
illicit drugs (my mother, sister, brother, husband and uncle were all 
victims of its use). I do however think that this will only increase 
the liklihood that the innocent (like myself and others of color) to 
be subjected to unjust scrutiny. I know that just as that justices 
have decided to ignore, as will many others not of color, the 
sterotypes and prejudices do exist and will play a bigger part under 
this decision. Do I want drugs in my community?... NO! Do I want my 
kids exposed to these types of people?...NO! Do I want to be safe on 
the roads and highway that I pay for with my tax dollars?...YES. Do I 
expect to be protected and served not only by law enforcement but 
more importantly by the Consitution?...HELL YES. I just think that 
the ones that will be most effected by this ruling will not be those 
that have wrong doing on thier minds but those born the wrong color.

JEFF wrote at 5/19/2006 10:10:44 AM

It is amazing that we still think that we are going to win the war on 
drugs. Lets see if I am correct in my calculations, in the arrest of 
the individual in the traffic stop where the dog was used, netted the 
state $256,136 in fines. We the tax payers of the state are now 
handed a bill for keeping this individual 12 years behind bars (10 
yrs "85% good time)at $50,000/ year. Lets see $500,000 minus $256,136 
= oops I forgot he is not going to pay this fine. I guess we could 
always garnishee his wages at wal-mart.

K9 Guy wrote at 5/19/2006 8:01:18 AM

The Illinois Supreme Court erred in it's previous ruling, as the 
issue had long-before been decided by the U.S. Supreme Court; they 
said (back then, and recently reaffirmed))that the use of the dogs - 
in the context presented - constituted a 'sniff', but not a 'search'; 
the 4th amendment does not prohibit sniffs. The state court's 
previous ruling was equally narrow and those involved with the issue 
believed then that the decision was wrong and inconsistent with 
federal case law. Maybe now, some of the 'scholars' on our state 
supreme court will think a little longer before they make their 
decisions. Otherwise, they may receive another public 'spanking' for 
their poor judgement.

john wrote at 5/19/2006 7:39:05 AM

The Court ABSOLUTELY did the right thing.
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