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St. Clair County Sheriff's Department
Monday December 20th, 2010 :: 11:01 a.m. CST

Community

State's attorney changes policy for drug arrests

State's attorney changes policy for drug arrests
BY BETH HUNDSDORFER - News-Democrat


If you are arrested for drugs in St. Clair County, you will now immediately face jail and felony charges.

St. Clair County State's Attorney Brendan Kelly will issue charges on police-administered field tests that confirm a suspect substance is a illegal narcotic or if the substance is submitted to the Illinois State Police Crime Lab within three business days.

That's a change. Former State's Attorney Robert Haida did not issue drug charges based on police-administered field tests, because of a number of false positive tests for controlled substances but waited for charges until the crime lab confirm the results

"Circumstances have changed," Kelly said. "We have to use every legal tool available to get drugs and drug dealers out of our community quickly."

Kelly will now issue possession of a controlled substance charges, possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver charges or delivery of a controlled substance charges on the basis of a field test.

A letter was sent to every St. Clair County police chief notifying them of the change in policy on Thursday.

Sheriff's Capt. Steve Johnson applauded the policy change, noting it will allow police to work more effectively fighting crime.

"I think this is a positive step in going after criminals who use and sell illegal narcotics," Johnson said. "Studies have shown that many violent crimes that are committed by those who are under the influence of illegal drugs."

The policy also allows police to gain the confidence of those telling police about drug sales in their neighborhoods.

"When neighbors would tell police about drug activity, police would do undercover buys, obtain search warrants, then a special response team would execute the warrant, then the people would be arrested if drugs were found," Johnson said.
"But then those people would be released pending lab results and they would return to those neighborhoods," he said.

Kelly said there were some minor anomalies in the field tests, but nothing systemic. The Illinois State Police Crime Lab also will test suspect controlled substances and marijuana within 30 days.

If police are unable to comply with these requirements, they will have to wait until the crime lab confirms the substance is drugs before the state's attorney issues charges.

The St. Clair County State's Attorney's Office handles several hundred drug cases a year.

Contact reporter Beth Hundsdorfer at bhundsdorfer@bnd.com or 239-2570.

Read more: http://www.bnd.com/2010/12/20/1523076/states-attorney-changes-policy.html#ixzz18fhrwvmC

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