Use of Drug-Detecting Dog at Issue in Supreme Court Case
January 29, 2013 /24-7PressRelease/ -- Seemingly each session, the Supreme Court will hear cases regarding actions by law enforcement personnel in their investigations into drug crimes. The Court is asked to determine if these procedures infringe upon our constitutional rights. Often, the decisions expand the use of police power, making it more difficult for those accused of crime to present a strong defense against the accusations.
Recently, the Court heard a case concerning the use of a drug-detecting dog during a Florida traffic stop. This case could lead to many more people being charged with drug crimes.
A man was observed driving a vehicle that had expired license plate tags. The police officer, on patrol with his drug-detecting dog, believed that the man was exhibiting signs that indicated drug use. He asked the man for permission to search the vehicle.
The man refused consent, and the officer led the dog around the vehicle to determine if the dog could detect any drugs present in a free-air sniff. The dog indicated a hit on the vehicle's door handle. Based upon the dog's alert, the officer conducted a search of the man's vehicle, and did so without obtaining a warrant. The search turned up chemicals used to make methamphetamines.
The issue that the Court is considering concerns whether or not the dog's indication was enough to give the officer probable cause to perform a warrantless search. The Florida Supreme Court excluded the evidence, because there was not enough information to determine if the dog was reliable in tracking down illegal drugs, and this ruling was appealed.
There is no standard test or criteria that must be used to train these dogs. In this case, the officer had spent a significant amount of time working with and training the dog, but only recorded the dog's successes. If the officer made an arrest, it was credited as a successful alert by the dog. If the dog alerted to drugs, but none were found, it was not reported in the dog's results.
The Supreme Court must determine if using the dogs to run a probable cause search would violate the Fourth Amendment's protections against illegal searches and seizures. If the Court rules that the police properly followed procedures in this instance, it could lead to many more searches of vehicles if a dog alerts to the presence of drugs.
If you have been charged with a drug crime, it is important to offer a strong defense against these accusations. A conviction can carry penalties that can impact your entire life. Speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney to understand how to protect your rights.