The Supreme Court recently heard two cases involving drug charges that were facilitated by drug-sniffing dogs. Their ruling in these matters could have broad implications for criminal defense and redefine the rights of the accused, particularly in drug cases.
In the first case, the court has to decide whether a dog’s sniff outside a home constitutes a “search” under the Fourth Amendment, which protects Americans against unreasonable searches and seizures. In order for a search to be reasonable, police must first justify it by finding probable cause.
The second case revolves around a Florida Supreme Court case that established some rules for determining whether a particular dog can be relied upon as grounds for a search. The state attempted to set some minimum proficiency standards that a dog would have to meet to be considered reliable. Conversely, the court could rule that law enforcement officials are not obligated to keep track of a dog’s performance at all.
Many people think of drug dogs as foolproof but evidence has shown that isn’t the case. In a study of Chicago drug dogs last year, police officers who conducted a vehicle search after a dog alerted them to the presence of drugs found narcotics only 44 percent of the time – which means that the dogs were wrong more often than not.
If you have been accused of a crime or feel that your constitutional rights have been violated, it is important to speak with a criminal defense attorney. They can help you build a strong defense and protect your rights.
Next week we’ll discuss some related rulings the court has made in the past regarding drug-sniffing dogs. We will also explore how the cases they recently heard could affect the arena of drug justice more broadly.
Source: The Huffington Post, “Supreme Court Considers Two Drug Dog Cases,” Radley Balko, Nov. 2, 2012