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.)


Tennessee Sees Significant Decreases In County Jobless Rates

Following the lowest state unemployment rate in nearly 20 years, Tennessee’s county unemployment rates for May 2017 have decreased in 94 counties and remained the same in 1, according to data released Thursday by the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development.  Davidson County has the state’s lowest major metropolitan rate at 2.1 percent, a decline from 2.7 ... (click for more)

Census: Tennessee's Median Age Continues To Grow

Since the 2010 Census, Tennessee's population has continued to age and 2016 was no exception, according to the data released today by the U.S. Census Bureau and disseminated by the Tennessee State Data Center. The center is housed within the Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research at University of Tennessee, Knoxville's Haslam College of Business. Tennessee's 2016 median ... (click for more)

Public Markets To Manage And Operate Finley Stadium

The Stadium Corporation board of directors, at a special board meeting Thursday, gave approval for Public Markets, Inc., (PMI) the entity that oversees the Chattanooga Market, the River Market, the Collegedale Market and Cambridge Square Market, to handle the management, operations and administration of the stadium. Executive Director of PMI Chris Thomas and his staff stepped ... (click for more)

Man Charged In North Chattanooga Murder Says "Wrong Number" Led To Drug Deal That Went Bad

A man charged in a North Chattanooga murder said a "wrong number" led to his chance meeting with victim Charles "Chas" Holsey and a drug deal that led to the March 2, 2015, slaying. Briston "B.J." Smith Jr. told investigators he thought he was dialing a friend named "Clack" who he said sells marijuana. By getting one digit wrong, he wound up texting with Holsey, who by chance ... (click for more)

Tom Edd Wilson Was A Great Visionary

We want to add to the many heart-felt messages that have been expressed regarding the recent passing of Tom Edd Wilson, a truly great visionary.    While he made his mark on many local organizations, Tom Edd will always hold a special place in the hearts of those who worked closely with him at Erlanger.   We benefited greatly from his steady guidance, leadership ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Leaders Stand ‘Way Back’

Franklin McCallie, a former principal at Howard School and the maverick in one of Chattanooga’s finest families known for education, delivered an impassioned speech before the Hamilton County Commission on Wednesday. Sadly, his remarks came after the commissioners had passed the FY2018 budget that has no financial methodology for the Department of Education, much maligned in the ... (click for more)