Lee Davis: Supreme Court Addresses Whether Drug Dog Sniffs Are Up To Snuff

Friday, February 22, 2013 - by Lee Davis
Lee Davis
Lee Davis


The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday in Florida v. Harris that prosecutors are not required to present evidence detailing the stellar records of police dogs before their results can be used in court. The ruling, written by Justice Elena Kagan, said that courts should subject sniff tests by drug dogs to the same scrutiny given to other issues that police use to demonstrate probable cause prior to a search, and no more.

Kagan, writing for a unanimous Court, said that the question should be whether all the facts surrounding the dog’s sniff alert would lead a reasonably prudent person to believe that a search would turn up evidence of a crime.

The ruling by the Supreme Court overturns an earlier decision by the Florida Supreme Court about a drug dog named Aldo. Aldo had been trained by police in Liberty County, FL to sniff for marijuana, cocaine, heroin, ecstasy and methamphetamine. During a routine traffic stop in 2006, Aldo gave a signal to his handler that he detected something in the truck.

A search was performed by officers and 200 loose pseudoephedrine pills, 8,000 matches, a bottle of hydrochloric acid, antifreeze and iodine were discovered. In combination these ingredients make methamphetamine, but individually they are not things Aldo was trained to detect. The man was arrested and charged and later appealed the issue asking that a judge throw out the evidence obtained during the search given that the defense claimed Aldo’s search was not a sufficient basis for probable cause to search the vehicle.

The Florida Supreme Court agreed with the defendant, saying that the police lacked probable cause to search the truck. The Florida Court claimed that prosecutors should have to present evidence of training, certification records, field performance records and other objective evidence concerning a drug dog’s abilities and experience.

The Supreme Court disagreed, voting unanimously to reverse the Florida high court. The Court said that such a lengthy laundry list of documents are not needed to support the reliability of a drug sniffing dog.

The Court, in an odd coincidence, is preparing to release a second opinion concerning drug-sniffing dogs. The second case involves officers who brought a police dog up to a private residence. The issue for the justices to decide is whether judges may issue search warrants for private residences when a drug-sniffing dog outside the home reacts as if it smells drugs inside.

To read the full opinion, click here.


---

(Lee Davis is a Chattanooga attorney who can be reached at lee@davis-hoss.com or at 266-0605.)



Chattanooga Chamber Calendar Of Events For Oct. 23-27

TUES/24 East Brainerd Council Meeting 11:30 a.m. - 1 p.m. Car Barn:  6721 Heritage Business Court Speaker: Steven Wagner, Erlanger Children's Hospital $12.   TUES/24 Grand Re-Opening of Food City 5 - 5:30 p.m. Food City:  7804 E. Brainerd Rd .   THUR/26 Reality Check - East Ridge High School ... (click for more)

Catherine Heigel Named Chief Operating Officer For Elliott Davis

Catherine Heigel, the former director of the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, has returned to Elliott Davis, LLC as its chief operating officer.  In this role, Ms. Heigel manages the firm’s operational support functions, including legal, information technology, human resource, marketing and communications, and firm administration. In addition, ... (click for more)

Shaw Industries To Invest $42 Million At Decatur, Tn., Plant

Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe and Shaw Industries Group, Inc. officials announced Friday that the floor products manufacturer will invest $42 million to upgrade its yarn facility in Decatur. Shaw plans create 75 new jobs in Meigs County as part of the investment. “I’d like to thank Shaw for its continued ... (click for more)

$125 Million County School Building Plan Includes Shifting CSLA To Tyner Middle; Combining Tyner High/Middle; New Harrison Elementary, New East Hamilton Middle

Hamilton County School officials on Thursday unveiled a $125 million building plan that includes moving the Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts to the current Tyner Middle School, which will undergo a major renovation. Tyner Middle will move across the street into Tyner High School. Both Tyner buildings have been under-utilized for a number of years. There will also be ... (click for more)

October Is Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Myth And Fact Check

My husband and I recently had the privilege of participating in the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk in Chattanooga. I listened as my husband told the audience about how his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer when he was nine and how she died from the disease when he was fourteen. As a child, my husband didn’t understand what breast cancer ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: At Last! New Schools

In this me-me-me-only-me world of today, we-we-we-finally got a thrilling $125 million facility plan for the Hamilton County Department of Education on Thursday night. The School Board unanimously approved a well-thought-out “first Band-Aid” that will provide a new elementary school in Harrison, middle schools in East Hamilton and Howard, and a quite-satisfactory answer to move ... (click for more)