Law Enforcement
10:30 am
Wed October 31, 2012

Supreme Court To Determine Accuracy Of Police Dog Noses In Florida Drug Case

Florida is back on the nation's legal map today with two cases before the U. S. Supreme Court, both of them involving police dogs whose well-trained noses led to now-controversial drug arrests.

Infallible? One of the two Florida cases before the Supreme Court will test popular beliefs about dog noses.
Credit National Crime Prevention Council

From The Washington Post:

The justices must decide whether man’s best friend is an honest broker as blind to prejudice as Lady Justice, or as prone as the rest of us to a bad day at the office or the ma­nipu­la­tion of our partners.

The Supreme Court in the past has tended to agree with the first view. Justice John Paul Stevens, now retired, wrote for the court in a 2005 case that a drug-sniffing dog reveals “no information other than the location of a substance that no individual has any right to possess.”But the two cases on the docket present an aggressive challenge to the notion that a dog’s “alert” to the presence of drugs is enough to legally justify a search of someone’s home or vehicle.

One of the cases involved a marijuana grow house in Miami-Dade County and a defendant who wound up in custody because the dog, a chocolate lab named Franky,  had detected the smell of marijuana from outside the house.

The question for the justices: How constitutional is that? Was it a warrantless search?

The other case, from Tallahassee, raises a  more basic question: Should people get arrested on the say-so of a dog? How accurate is a dog's nose, really? The Florida Supreme Court ruled last year that the idea of the infallible dog is "a creation of legal fiction."