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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
In 6 to 2 majority ruling issued today the United States Supreme Court held that the Fourth Amendment does not require reasonable, articulable suspicion to justify using a drug-detection dog to sniff a vehicle during a legitimate traffic stop.

"Accordingly, the use of a well-trained narcotics-detection dog--one that 'does not expose noncontraband items that otherwise would remain hidden from public view,' Place, 462 U. S., at 707--during a lawful traffic stop, generally does not implicate legitimate privacy interests. In this case, the dog sniff was performed on the exterior of respondent's car while he was lawfully seized for a traffic violation. Any intrusion on respondent's privacy expectations does not rise to the level of a constitutionally cognizable infringement." Illinois v. Cabelles, 2005 Westlaw 123826 Jan.24. 2005.

Massachusetts Case (pre Cabelles) Comm. v. Feyenord (10/1/04)

The police were justified in detaining a defendant, who had been stopped for a routine traffic violation, until a dog trained to detect narcotics arrived to check the exterior of the car.

A police officer stopped the defendant for driving a car during daylight with only one functioning headlight. The defendant appeared nervous, did not have his New York State driver's license with him, and the car was registered to someone else. The defendant and his passenger provided conflicting information as to their destination and relationship. The officer, sensing that something was amiss, placed the defendant in the back of the cruiser and called a canine officer to the scene. The canine officer arrived within 5-10 minutes with a drug-dog who sniffed the exterior of the car. The dog "alerted" near the trunk area where the officers ultimately found over 100 grams of cocaine. The defendant moved to suppress the drugs on the following grounds:

The Stop: The defendant claims the officer was not authorized to stop him for operating a car during daylight hours with only one headlight illuminated. The Court dismissed this argument noting that the statutory requirement for all cars to be equipped with "suitable lamps" (c. 90, §7) "depends neither on visibility conditions nor on the time of day during which the vehicle operated."

The Exit Order: The defendant claims the officer did not have any authority to order him out of the car. The Court disagreed. "Given the wide variety of rapidly evolving circumstances an officer may face, 'not much is required for a police officer to establish a reasonable basis to justify an exit order … based on safety concerns.'" Here the defendant failed to produce a valid driver's license, the car was registered to someone else, and the defendant exhibited nervous mannerisms. Together these factors justified the officer's heightened precautions for his own protection.

The Sniff: The defendant claims the dog's exterior sniff of the car amounted to an impermissible search without probable cause. The Court held that neither probable cause nor reasonable suspicion was required before bringing the dog to the scene. "(T)he dog's sniff and resulting 'alert' would constitute a search only if society were prepared to say that the defendant was reasonable in his subjective expectation of privacy in the odor of cocaine emanating from his car. We think that society is wholly unprepared and unwilling to take that step."

The Scope: The defendant claims that calling in the canine officer unjustifiably broadened the scope of an otherwise routine traffic stop into a drug investigation. Specifically, the defendant claims that the length of time he was detained (about 30 minutes) waiting for the dog to arrive and to conduct an exterior sniff of his car, unreasonably and impermissibly extended the stop's scope. The Court pointed out that no rule prohibits police "from briefly detaining a person whom they have probable cause to arrest while they decide whether to arrest the person or let her proceed." Here, the detention left open the possibility that if the dog did not alert on the car, no arrest would follow. "To hold that the defendant's detention was unlawful because the police did not arrest him would turn an arrest into a constitutional safeguard against brief detention."

** Justice Greenberg wrote a strong dissent on the last ground - concluding the defendant had been illegally detained. This same issue is before the United States Supreme Court in an Illinois case with strikingly similar facts. People v. Caballes, 207 Ill.2d 504 (2003), cert. granted 124 S.Ct. 1875 (2004) is scheduled for oral argument on November 10, 2004.

316 Posts
Re: K-9 SNIFF on Motor Vehicle stops

Police can use dogs in traffic stops

Tue Jan 25, 7:25 AM ET

By Joan Biskupic, USA TODAY

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that police may use drug-sniffing dogs during routine traffic stops, even when officers have no reason to suspect the vehicle is carrying narcotics.

By a 6-2 vote, the justices reversed an Illinois Supreme Court ruling that said the use of a dog wrongly converts a routine traffic stop into a drug investigation. The high court said a dog's sniff is not intrusive enough to amount to a search that violates the Fourth Amendment's ban on unreasonable searches. The majority said that a motorist does not have a legitimate expectation of privacy for contraband hidden in a trunk or other location that would be detected by a dog.

Dissenting Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg (news - web sites) and David Souter (news - web sites) said the ruling could lead to dog-accompanied drug sweeps of cars that are parked along sidewalks or in parking lots, and they questioned whether it could give police more latitude to use dogs to look for drugs among travelers' belongings.

Barry Sullivan, a Chicago lawyer who filed a brief in the case on behalf of the ACLU, added that the ruling could make motorists vulnerable to drug searches when they are stopped for minor traffic violations.

But Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, whose appeal to the court was backed by 28 states and the U.S. Justice Department (news - web sites), hailed the decision. She called the use of canine units "indispensable," and said the ruling would help reduce drug trafficking.

The Supreme Court has long allowed police to stop a vehicle if an officer believes some wrongdoing is underway. But the court has required searches to be linked to the reasons that led to the stop. Monday's case presented a different twist because it tested whether police must have a reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing related to drugs before using a dog.

The case began in 1998, when an Illinois trooper stopped Roy Caballes for going 71 mph in a 65 mph zone. While the trooper was writing a warning ticket, another trooper walked a drug-sniffing dog around the car. The dog signaled at the trunk, and after a search, the troopers found marijuana. Caballes was sentenced to 12 years in prison and fined $256,136.

Writing for the court's majority, Justice John Paul Stevens (news - web sites) stressed that Caballes was stopped lawfully and that the entire episode lasted less than 10 minutes. He said that an unreasonably prolonged traffic stop might have been unconstitutional.

Stevens rejected arguments that Caballes' situation should be covered by a 2001 ruling in which the court said that a police department's use of a thermal-imaging device to detect lights used to grow marijuana inside a home amounted to an illegal search. "Critical to that decision was the fact that the device could detect lawful activity - in that case, intimate details in a home, such as at what hour each night the lady of the house takes her daily sauna and bath," Stevens said. He said drug-sniffing dogs detect only illegal activity.

In his dissent, Souter questioned whether dogs turn up only illegal activity. He then joined a dissent by Ginsburg that said the ruling could lead to actions more intrusive than a dog's walk around a stopped car. They emphasized, however, that the case involved drug detection, not dogs used to find explosives as part of public-safety efforts.

Sullivan said that although Stevens said the ruling applied only to car stops, its rationale could encourage police to walk drug-sniffing dogs around homes.

Chief Justice William Rehnquist (news - web sites), who is being treated for cancer, did not participate in Illinois vs. Caballes and some other cases the court heard in November.

4,172 Posts
"Odor" is as good for a drug dog as it is for a cop who "detects the odor of marijuana (or alcohol, for that matter). What is surprising, though, is that a "moderate" (read: pinko) like Justice Stevens agreed. Ginsberg and Souter (Souter: thanks Bush 41 :evil: ) are true to form.
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