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Canine Sniffs and Policing the Drug War

NCJ Number
Criminal Justice Review Volume: 35 Issue: 4 Dated: December 2010 Pages: 438-452
Durant Frantzen
Date Published
December 2010
15 pages
This article examines Federal appeals court decisions dealing with police canine searches of residential areas and vehicles that have been made since the U.S. Supreme Court's 2005 decision in Illinois v. Caballes.
The war on drugs has resulted in numerous policing reforms, partly a function of policy established through the court system. In Illinois v. Caballes (2005), the Supreme Court held that a canine sniff of a vehicle's exterior is not a ''search,'' but acknowledged that a prolonged detention could result in a fourth amendment violation. This study examines the universe of Federal appellate court decisions involving canine sniffs postdating the Caballes decisiona period spanning more than 4 years. Results show that court decisions have largely focused on motorist stops, while only a minority of cases has involved canine sniffs of residences. Additionally, courts have usually held that a canine sniff occurring during a prolonged vehicle stop is not an unreasonable seizure. However, in limited contexts police questioning and the extent of the roadside detention can result in a fourth amendment violation. Although one's home is generally afforded the highest level of constitutional protection, appellate courts have ruled that canine sniffs of residences are less intrusive than technologically assisted searches. On the whole, findings reveal an overall suppression rate of 10 percent. Policy implications surrounding the use of canines in vehicle stops and residential searches are addressed. Tables and references (Published Abstract)