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Who Let the Dogs Out?: Drug Dogs in Court

NCJ Number
Criminal Justice Studies Volume: 20 Issue: 3 Dated: September 2007 Pages: 177-196
Jennifer Ashley; Simon Billinge; Craig Hemmens
Date Published
September 2007
20 pages
This study reviewed judicial opinions on search-and-seizure issues related to the use of police dogs to sniff out drugs on individuals, in residences, and in vehicles.
In Illinois v. Caballes (2005), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that law enforcement officers could use a dog to sniff out drugs during a routine traffic stop, whether or not reasonable suspicion or probable cause for the presence of drugs existed; however, this case does not address the issue of privacy for individuals who legally possess drugs that contain morphine, cocaine, and marijuana. Police dogs will sniff out such drugs, but obviously cannot distinguish between illegal or legal possession of such drugs. Individuals who legally possess such drugs have a legitimate privacy interest in not experiencing police intervention. Whether the privacy interest of these few individuals outweighs the benefits gained from police dogs' ability to detect illegal drugs is controversial. To date, the U.S. Supreme Court has not addressed whether a canine sniff of a person constitutes a search under the fourth amendment. There are conflicting opinions among the Federal courts of appeals. Courts have been inconsistent regarding dog sniffs of the exterior of a residence. The majority of courts have imposed a reasonable-suspicion standard, rather than probable cause, in measuring the lawfulness of such sniffs. Whether a drug-dog sniff of a residence is considered a search depends on the area of the residence sniffed and the area's level of public access. It remains to be determined whether the routine use of drug dogs by the police will be extended to other than public areas and whether courts will sanction such an expanded use without establishing reasonable suspicion that illegal drugs are present. 3 tables, 14 references, and a list of cited court cases