ACLU of Illinois Disappointed with High Court Ruling on Drug Dog Searches, Calls for State Law to Prevent Searches Without Suspicion

January 24, 2005

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: media@aclu.org

Statement of Harvey Grossman, Legal Director, ACLU of Illinois

CHICAGO -- We are disappointed that the Supreme Court of the United States today exposes all motorists across Illinois, and the rest of the nation, to unnecessary, intimidating searches by drug-sniffing dogs. Thousands of motorists in Illinois already have been subjected to threatening searches by drug-sniffing dogs simply because they exceeded the speed limit or violated some other traffic law.

As Justice Ginsburg noted in her dissent, the use of these dogs changes the character and nature of the traffic stop from a simple interaction between police officer and citizen to a menacing experience in which many individuals feel threatened.

It is for this reason that a number of states have chosen to ban the use of drug-sniffing dogs in routine traffic stops, unless there exists some individualized circumstances that create suspicion about the presence of contraband. Illinois should follow this lead, assuring all persons in our state basic dignity and freedom from intimidation as they travel about in their daily activities.

Most important, members of the Illinois General Assembly should act to insure that the protections contained in the U.S. Constitution are a floor, not a ceiling. The General Assembly should move quickly to adopt legislation insuring that drug-sniffing dogs in Illinois are not allowed to search cars, pedestrians and buildings without individualized suspicion.

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