Pubdate: Sun, 27 Mar 2011 Source: Jacksonville Journal-Courier (IL) Copyright: 2011 Freedom Communications Contact: http://www.myjournalcourier.com/sections/letter/ Website: http://www.myjournalcourier.com/ Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/5122 Author: Benjamin Yount, Illinois Statehouse News COURT SAYS DRUG SNIFF SET-UP IS OK It may be a little easier for police officers in Illinois to find drugs after the Illinois Supreme Court this week OK'd drug sniff "set-ups" in one of a handful of decisions. The opinion in People v. Bartelt centers on a 2006 traffic stop in Quincy. Police officers said Cheryl Bartelt was suspected of buying methamphetamine. Officers pulled over her car, and called for a drug-sniffing dog. As they waited for the dog, officers told Bartelt to roll up the windows of her car and to then turn on her car's fans. Once the dog arrived, it alerted officers to the presence of drugs. The police searched Bartelt's car, found methamphetamine and arrested her for possession of methamphetamine, according to court records. The case was headed for trial when Bartelt's lawyer challenged the "set-up" and got a lower court to agree that the police stepped over the line. But a divided Supreme Court, in a 4-3 decision, ruled that the police did not violate Bartelt's Fourth Amendment rights that protect against unreasonable search and seizure. Justice Lloyd Karmeier wrote the majority opinion, and said that using a dog to sniff for drugs has already been established as a reasonable search. He adds that a "set-up" only extends that established law. Chief Justice Tom Kilbride and Justices Robert Thomas and Rita Garman also voted in the majority. "The dog sniff in [this case] was not a search subject to the fourth amendment because it did not compromise any legitimate interest in privacy," Karmeier wrote for the majority of the court. Quincy Police Chief Robert Copley said the Illinois State Police taught his officers about "set-ups," which he calls a valuable tool in the fight against drugs. "This is good news," said Copley. "I'm pleased with the court's ruling, and we will certainly use this tool again." Ann Lousin, professor of law at the John Marshall Law School, said the case goes beyond the established law on drug sniffing dogs, Illinois v Caballes, which allows police to search a car if a dog indicates drugs are in the vehicle, and hints at something new for police and the public. "I was just amazed. I did not know that this was any kind of ordinary procedure. The other thing that amazed me, the third thing, was that the dissenters were all Cook County justices," said Lousin. Those dissenting justices are strong in their disagreement. Justice Charles Freeman wrote a 14-page dissent as to why he disagreed with the police and the other members of the high court. Justices Anne Burke and Mary Jane Theis joined in the dissent. Freeman wrote that "there is nothing to balance (Bartelt's) right to be free from arbitrary interference by the police." Freeman added that a police "set-up" is "unreasonable and constitutionally infirm." Copley said he is ready to start having officers once again use "set-ups." Bartelt's case now heads back to Adams County for trial. ID theft The high court did question a tool for law enforcement in another of its rulings. In People v. Madrigal, the high court weighed in on Illinois' identity theft law. The specifics of the case center on Claudia Madrigal, who was indicted in Kane County for using someone else's name to gain information about that person. Justice Bob Thomas wrote for the court that the problem with the law as it stands today is that it is too vague. "Doing a computer search through Google, or some other search engine, or through a social networking site such as Facebook" could violate the identity theft law, Thomas wrote. The court struck down the law for now, but Thomas suggested lawmakers try again. Robyn Ziegler, spokeswoman for Illinois Attorney Lisa Madigan, said she expects that will happen soon. "We are reviewing the decision and, if appropriate, will talk with legislators about how to ensure the law can satisfy the Supreme Court's concerns," she said. Election law rehash The justices also used an opinion to weigh in on who has the ultimate power to decide Illinois' election laws. The Will County case of Goodman v. Ward centered on an election dispute and the specifics of election code. Will County's election board allowed a candidate for judge, Chris Ward, to stay on the ballot despite the fact that Ward did not live in the judicial district when filing the election paperwork. A Will County judge eventually ordered Ward off the ballot. The high court sternly reminded officials in Will County that when state law says a candidate has to live in the district they wish to represent, they have to live in that district. The justices also offered another reminder that only a court, not an election board, can interpret Illinois' election code. Ron Michaelson, former Illinois State Board of Election's director, said the court was simply reminding people at the local level about the law. "The court is reaffirming the law with a bit of a slap at the Will County Board," Michaelson said. - --- MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.