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Drug Detection Dogs Get Supreme Court's Approval

Last month the Supreme Court ruled in favor of law enforcement officials when it said that a drug dog's "alert" could be used as probable cause to search a vehicle. More specifically, the court said that probable cause could be established without detailed records of the dog's reliability.

The case came from the Florida panhandle, where Officer William Wheetley stopped Calvin Harris for having an expired license plate. When Wheetley came up the car, he could tell that Harris was nervous and asked if he could search the car. Harris refused and Wheetley brought out his canine companion Aldo, who alerted to a scent on the driver's side door handle.

Wheetley used the alert as probable cause to search the vehicle and discovered the ingredients for making methamphetamine. Harris was convicted, but the Florida Supreme Court reversed the conviction, saying that a drug dog's sniff was not sufficient to establish probable cause. It cited a number of studies saying that drug detection dogs are often mistaken and highly influenced by the prejudices of their handlers. The state court said that the police department needed to prove a dog's reliability beyond standard certifications.

The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously overturned this decision, however, with Justice Kagan writing that standard certification and training for drug dogs was perfectly sufficient to establish probable cause, and that requiring independent tests would unnecessarily complicate the law enforcement process.

What this means for drivers in Texas is that police can still use drug detection dogs to justify a search of your vehicle. If you've been charged with a drug offense, you need an experienced San Marcos drug crime defense attorney on your side. Contact the Kyle Law Firm todayto schedule your free consultation.

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