Florida wins ‘dog sniff’ case at the US Supreme Court

drug sniffing dog
US Customs Canine Enforcement Photo credit: Tony Avelar/The Christian Science Monitor

 In a case that is important to law enforcement officers throughout the nation, the United States Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the State of Florida clarifying legal standards for drug detection dogs. Although a common practice, in question was whether police dog Aldo’s sniff constituted probable cause after Liberty County K-9 Officer William Wheetley searched Clayton Harris’ vehicle for illegal drugs during a traffic stop.

The Supreme Court’s decision in Florida v. Clayton Harris unanimously reversed a previous ruling by the Florida Supreme Court, according to a release by Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office.

“Because training records established Aldo’s reliability in detecting drugs and Harris failed to undermine that showing, we agree with the trial court that Wheetley had probable cause to search Harris’s truck,”  the Supreme Court declared.

This is the first of two cases in which a ruling will be made. According to a report at CSMonitor.com:

In both instances, the Florida Supreme Court issued rulings that make it harder for law-enforcement officials to use dogs to discover illicit drugs in a home or vehicle.

Prosecutors in Florida, the Obama administration, and more than 20 state attorneys general are urging the high court to overturn the Florida Supreme Court and establish bright-line rules allowing police to use dogs during traffic stops as well as at the front door of a private home.

“This victory is paramount to preserving our law enforcement officers’ ability to use police dog alerts to locate illegal drugs and arrest those who possess them,” stated Attorney General Pam Bondi. “The Supreme Court correctly held that a police dog’s reliability is determined through a common-sense evaluation of the relevant circumstances, rather than through a rigid set of judge-created requirements.”

See the Supreme Court opinion here.


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