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AUSTIN EDITION -- Entering courthouse may mean search

By Amy Olson

aolson@postbulletin.com

Anyone going into the Mower County courthouse might be searched for weapons.

As part of a plan to improve security, county board members passed a resolution Tuesday calling for improved security at county buildings, including the courthouse and fairgrounds.

Chief Deputy Sheriff Terese Amazi said signs were posted Wednesday at each of the courthouse's entrances.

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Visitors to the second-floor courtrooms have always been subject to search under judicial order, Amazi said. Extending the policy to cover the entire building will help prevent people bringing weapons into the building and protect the county from being sued if someone is searched.

Deputy Steve Sandvik said state law makes it a felony to carry a dangerous weapon such as a gun or incendiary device into a courthouse, but it does not prevent people from carrying knives or other so-called non-lethal weapons. Under the law, knives and non-lethal weapons must be used to cause harm or death before they are considered dangerous.

"At that point, somebody could be hurt or dead," Sandvik said.

Sandvik said the resolution allows deputies to search a person's bag, briefcase or body if necessary and makes bringing a weapon into any county building a misdemeanor.

"Homeland security is a big issue. It's getting bigger every day," said board Chairman Len Miller.

Sandvik plans to bring a comprehensive plan to improve security at the courthouse and other facilities to the board at a later date.

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