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Author Topic: Challenges to Police 'Dog Sniffs'  (Read 1132 times)


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Challenges to Police 'Dog Sniffs'
« on: November 10, 2012, 07:52 PM »
Supreme Court Hears Challenges to Police 'Dog Sniffs'

The US Supreme Court has heard oral argument in two cases challenging
the use of police drug-detection dogs. In Florida v. Jardines, the
defendant challenged the Miami Police Department's warrantless use of
a drug-detection dog to sniff for drugs at his front door. In Florida
v. Harris, the defendant challenged the physical search of his
automobile on the grounds that the preceding "alert" by a drug-
detection dog was not sufficient to establish probable cause. Both
cases require the Court to consider the impact on Fourth Amendment
privacy rights when police use advanced investigative techniques.

The Court first considered the use of dogs to detect contraband nearly
30 years ago in the case United States v. Place. At the time, Justice
Sandra Day O'Connor stated that a dog "alert" over seized luggage in an
airport does not constitute a "search" under the Fourth Amendment
because it "discloses only the presence or absence of narcotics, a
contraband item." In the 2005 case Illinois v. Caballes, the Court
upheld the use of drug-detection dogs to sniff lawfully detained
automobiles. During the Jardines argument Justice Anthony
Kennedy made clear that he was unwilling to extend the so-called
"contraband exception" into the realm of the home. "I just don't
think that works," he concluded during his first comment.

EPIC filed a "friend of the court" brief in Florida v. Harris, arguing
that investigative tools like drug-detection dogs, airport body
scanners, electronic sniffers, and digital intercept devices should be
used only to justify searches based on concrete evidence that they are
reliable. "When an agent uses an investigative technique to uncover
predicate facts used to justify a search," the brief states, "that
agent should be able to demonstrate that the technique is tested,
reliable, and has been properly used and maintained. Without such
proof there can be no probable cause." EPIC's brief particularly
focused on a recent report by the National Academy of Sciences, which
highlighted significant reliability problems in forensic sciences due
to a lack of national standards. "The perfect search, like the
infallible dog," EPIC said, "is a null set. "The Court will rule on
both Jardines and Harris sometime before the end of the term in
June 2013.

EPIC:  Florida v. Harris

EPIC:  Florida v. Jardines

EPIC:  "Friend of the Court" Brief in Harris (Aug. 31, 2012)

US Supreme Court:  Oral Argument Transcript in Jardines (Oct. 31, 2012)

US Supreme Court:  Oral Argument Transcript in Harris (Oct. 31, 2012)