Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Trust Us, We're Experts. Yes, The Dog Too

Modern interpretations of the Fourth Amendment have led to some very interesting decisions and perhaps unexpected application of those decisions (recitation of Miranda rights, search incident to arrest, "grabbable area." ) Then there are the "canine sniff" cases, arising out of the increasing use of dogs to demonstrate probable cause in order to conduct a search that would otherwise not be permitted. A frustrated police officer wishing to conduct a search of a car, for example, can apply to a federal judge for a search warrant, or call in a K-9 unit and the dog, if it "alerts," in essence, gives permission to search. Surprising no one, the Supreme Court unanimously upheld the practice.

In this case, the dog had a history of false alerts with this defendant. This might seem to be a problem, but not to worry. Since he alerted, he must be right. 
A well-trained drug-detection dog should alert to such odors; his response to them might appear a mistake, but in fact is not. See n. 2
Note 2: ...when a detector dog responds and no drug or explosive is found, do not assume the dog has made an error  
For that reason, evidence of a dog’s satisfactory performance in a certification or training program can itself provide sufficient reason to trust his alert. If a bona fide organization has certified a dog after testing his reliability in a controlled setting, a court can presume (subject to any conflicting evidence offered) that the dog’s alert provides probable cause to search.
By Culture of Truth