Justice Kagan wrote, in a unanimous decision by the United States Supreme Court, that a dog’s “sniff is up to snuff.” The case, Florida v. Harris, gives law enforcement greater authority to use drug sniffing dogs to establish probable cause to search your vehicle.
Harris’ vehicle was pulled over by a Florida police officer for an expired license plate. According to the officer, Harris was nervous and shaking, and refused to give consent for the officer to search his vehicle. The officer had a drug-sniffing dog in his vehicle. The dog, a German Shepherd named Aldo, gave an alert that drugs were present in the driver’s side door handle of Harris’ vehicle.
Using the drug-sniffing dog’s alert to establish probable cause, the officer search Harris’ vehicle. While the officer did not uncover any drug that the drug-sniffing dog had been trained to detect, the officer did find 200 pseudoephedrine pills and other ingredients used to make methamphetamine. After the officer read Harris his Miranda rights, Harris admitted that he regularly used and manufactured methamphetamine.
Harris pled no contest to the methamphetamine charges, but appealed his case to the Florida Supreme Court. The court held that the search of Harris’ vehicle was unconstitutional because the State was not able to provide any evidence of Aldo’s “hits” and “misses” in the field, which pointed directly towards the drug-sniffing dog’s reliability.
U.S. Supreme Court Decision
The United States Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, overturned the Florida Supreme Court’s decision, holding that the state does not need to establish the drug-sniffing dog’s field history to establish probable cause. It is sufficient to establish a dog’s reliability with evidence that the dog has successfully completed a training program or been certified as competent to detect the presence of drugs.
So, what does this decision mean for you and your 4th Amendment rights? If a person refuses to consent to a search of their vehicle, and the officer becomes suspicious, a drug sniffing drug can be brought out and, if the dog alerts to the presence of drugs, the police can search the vehicle. Moreover, so long as the drug-sniffing dog has completed a training program or otherwise been certified as being able to detect the presence of drugs, the search is appropriate.
Considering this, can the police simply say it was suspicious that you refused to give consent and prolong the traffic stop while waiting for a drug-sniffing dog to arrive? Johnson Legal, LLC wrote about this subject in a previous post. The simple answer is “no.” If the officer already has a drug-sniffing dog on scene, or is able to have one arrive quickly, the search of your vehicle based on probable cause derived from the drug-sniffing dog will be constitutional. However, if the officer must wait a prolonged period of time for a drug-sniffing dog to arrive on scene, the search of your vehicle based upon the dog’s alert is a violation of your constitutional rights.
Columbus and Delaware, Ohio Criminal Defense Attorney
If you have been charged with a criminal offense in Columbus or Delaware, Ohio, contact Johnson Legal, LLC and speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney. Attorney David Johnson of Johnson Legal, LLC will discuss your case and assist you in fighting the charges. Call (614) 987-0192 or send an email to schedule a consultation regarding your criminal offense case.