US Supreme Court unanimously overturns Florida Supreme Court ruling, siding with drug-sniffing dog

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Today, in a unanimous vote, the US Supreme Court established that police dogs pass the smell test. Literally. 

In 2006, a drug-sniffing German shepherd named Aldo alerted his officer to the smell of drugs in Clayton Harris’ car.  This is after Harris was pulled over in the Panhandle for an expired tag; was found by officer William Wheetley to be nervous and shaking; and refused Wheetley’s request to search his vehicle.  And also, apparently, after Wheetley had been transporting the ingredients for making meth. 

In successful appeals up through the Florida Supreme Court, Wheetley’s defense argued that dogs often make mistakes or are influenced by their handlers, and that prosecutors must provide evidence of the dog’s reliability in the field before the dog’s nose can establish probable cause for a search. 

When Florida v. Harris reached the Supreme Court, Justice Elena Kagan disagreed, writing: “The question — similar to every inquiry into probable cause — is whether all the facts surrounding a dog’s alert, viewed through the lens of common sense, would make a reasonably prudent person think that a search would reveal contraband or evidence of a crime… A sniff is up to snuff when it meets that test… Aldo’s did.” 

The Supreme Court’s opinion is that proper training and certification of police dogs is enough for law enforcement’s purposes, and that if defense attorneys have concerns about a specific dog’s qualifications, they could make such a case to a judge. 

Guess every dog does have its day.

You can read more about it here or here.

Via Karen Cyphers, PhD. — a public policy consultant, researcher, and mother to three girls. You may reach Karen at karen@cyphersgroup.com.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.