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.)


First Horizon Declares Quarterly Dividends

First Horizon National Corporation, parent company of First Tennessee Bank, board of directors has approved payment of a quarterly cash dividend on its common stock of $.07 per share. The dividend is payable on Oct. 3 to the common shareholders of record on Sept. 9.   The board also approved payment of a quarterly cash dividend of $1,550 per share on First Horizon’s Non-Cumulative ... (click for more)

Develop CENTS Hosts Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony

IT startup Develop CENTS will celebrate the opening of their 6110 Shallowford Road location with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Thursday, Aug. 4 from 10-11 a.m. Founded in 2013, the company specializes in providing IT support and web hosting to nonprofits and small businesses. Officials said their expansion, including a new office space and an addition to the staff, will allow ... (click for more)

$30 Million Development Planned At King And South Market; Will Include Hotel, Condos, Offices, Retail, Possible Restaurant

A new $30 million development is planned for the Southside at King Street and South Market. Nick Wilkinson, city deputy director for economic development, said it will include a hotel, condos, offices, retail and possibly a restaurant. It could also include some light industry. A storage building and a parking lot are now at the site. He said the developers plan to reuse ... (click for more)

Investor In Scheme Says Dyer Made Contacts At Quarterback Club

One of the investors who was a loser in an investment scheme recently halted by the Securities and Exchange Commission said one of the Chattanooga brokers involved made many of his contacts through the Chattanooga Quarterback Club. Paul Smith, former Hamilton County Democratic Party chairman, said Doug Dyer has been the president for many years of the club that promotes UTC and ... (click for more)

Expand Broadband Internet, Not The Size Of Government

I’d like to respond to two letters in your July 13 edition that praised Rep. Mike Carter’s efforts to expand statewide broadband access. Rep. Carter wants more government involvement in the broadband sector, including an expansion of taxpayer-funded, municipal broadband networks.  Rep. Carter’s supporters argued he’s standing up for consumers against huge telecommunications ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Our Horses Vs. DesJarlais

It is well-known that shortly after the despicable “Big Lick” faction of the Tennessee Walking Horse industry put on a very-pointed fundraiser for the equally repugnant Congressman Scott DesJarlais (R-Jasper) two years ago, the misguided doctor has repeatedly tried to bully and strong-arm the U.S. Department of Agriculture on the behalf of the vermin who sadistically torture the ... (click for more)