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Armed and Safe is a gun rights advocacy blog, with the mission of debunking the "logic" of the enemies of the Constitutionally guaranteed, fundamental human right of the individual to keep and bear arms.

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Friday, April 18, 2008

Illinois Supreme Court upholds Fourth Amendment

Well, I'm back to writing about Illinois again, and this time, I'm talking about an issue only tangentially related to guns, but I think this illustrates the kind of mindset that will have to be stamped out in Illinois before residents of this blighted state can enjoy the liberties that are the birthrights of all Americans.

First, a little background. Back in 1999, the Illinois Politburo General Assembly passed a law prohibiting "secret compartments" in cars. The law, ostensibly intended to thwart illegal transportation of drugs and/or guns, in fact made it a felony to have such a compartment installed in a vehicle--regardless of whether or not there was actually anything illegal in the compartment.

I had heard nothing of this law until, in 2006, it was declared unconstitutional by the Illinois Appellate Court. Articles about that are by now tough to find but one was quoted in full at Illinois Carry.

At issue was the 2004 conviction of repeat felon Derrick Carpenter, arrested by Chicago police [Chicago police? I'm shocked] after officers found a BB gun in the airbag compartment of the van he was in.

Hidden BB gun

The airbag was gone, creating a "secret compartment."
But because it's legal to carry a BB gun, Carpenter, 22, could only be charged with violating the state's secret compartment statute -- a conviction for which Judge Bertina Lampkin sentenced him to two years in prison.
A more thorough examination of that case can be found here (registration required--or use BugMeNot). This law was sponsored by then Illinois State Senator Lisa Madigan, who later (in 2002) went on to become the Illinois Attorney General--a post she still holds. She was none too pleased about the appellate court ruling.
Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who helped sponsor the law, called it "an important law for fighting drug crimes and protecting the lives of police officers" and said she will now confer with prosecutors.
In other words, the chief law officer of the state of Illinois apparently holds a "screw the Fourth Amendment" attitude.

Actually, Madigan was apparently even more unhappy with the ruling than I had thought--rather than accepting her well-earned defeat, she apparently appealed the ruling to the Illinois Supreme Court, which handed down a ruling yesterday.

Sorry, Lisa.
The Illinois Supreme Court declared Thursday that a state law banning secret compartments in cars is unconstitutional.

A unanimous court said the 1999 law meant to discourage gang members from hiding guns from police was too broad and penalized innocent conduct.

Justices ruled on two cases in which police stopped cars with empty air bag compartments. During one, in Cook County in 2004, police found a BB gun. The other, a 2006 stop in Grundy County, turned up a large amount of money.
So has this law ever been used against someone who was actually transporting something that is, you know . . . illegal?
Chicago police pushed the law in 1999 because they said gang members were installing hidden compartments for as little as $1,000. Some could hold dozens of guns gangbangers could grab quickly, they said.
I'm sorry, but any compartment that is large enough to "hold dozens of guns," and is positioned so that those guns can be grabbed quickly, can't be that secret, especially if the work is being done for $1000. Does the city of Chicago have a habit of putting blind officers on patrol?

This, though, is my favorite part:
Madigan's attorney general's office, which defended the law before the court, argued that the presence of a secret compartment indicates the desire to hide something illegal.
Let me get this straight, Lisa--you want it to be a felony to desire to do something illegal?

Better lock me up for life.


GeorgeH said...

Good thing it was thrown out, because anyone who had had an airbag deployment and had not yet replaced the airbag was guilty of a felony for having that empty 'hidden compartment'.

Totally insane.

Kurt '45superman' Hofmann said...

Good thing it was thrown out, because anyone who had had an airbag deployment and had not yet replaced the airbag was guilty of a felony for having that empty 'hidden compartment'

Exactly--in fact, the case that resulted in the initial Appellate Court ruling, the defendant had a BB gun in an empty air bag compartment.

Zendo Deb said...

There is a company that installs hidden safes in cars to protect against smash and grab, and I think the contents of the safe were intact even after a car theft and recovery. (The bad guys didn't realize the safe was there and so left it alone.)

Kurt '45superman' Hofmann said...

Well, until this ruling, protecting your valuables that way in Illinois would be a felony, because our Attorney General thinks that such a compartment indicates a desire to hide something illegal.

I love this state.

Don said...

Over at Second City Cop, they're speculating on what this will do to the currently-cushy job of Chicago PD's resident "International Car Trap Expert."

I had no idea they had such a thing--I guess his full-time job in the CPD is to teach cops how to find these hidden compartments.

I don't think that will go away completely, though. The compartment or "trap" might be legal now, but cops will still search cars for contraband. They just won't be able to charge you with a crime unless they find something illegal during a legal search, as crazy as that may sound to some of our legislators.

Kurt '45superman' Hofmann said...

. . . currently-cushy job of Chicago PD's resident "International Car Trap Expert."

Good Lord--there really is such a thing?