Their nose is their life - big time - so what about human's constitution?

Submitted by Jeff Buster on Wed, 10/31/2012 - 21:37.

Guy - you and I are on the same page on this one.  

Report from NYTimes 

">two Florida cases involving dogs used to detect illegal drugs. In the first, the police responded to a Crime Stoppers tip and took a dog named Franky to a house before getting a warrant. The dog gave the signal that there was a scent of contraband. Afterward, the police got a warrant, searched the home and found marijuana growing inside.

In the second, an officer and his drug-detection dog, Aldo, were on patrol. The officer stopped a truck after confirming that its license plate had expired. When the officer approached the truck and noticed the driver was shaking and could not sit still, he asked if he could search the truck. The driver said no, so the officer deployed Aldo, who did a “free air sniff” and “alerted” the officer to the presence of drugs. The officer found chemicals in the truck for making methamphetamine.

In a 2001 case, the Supreme Court ruled that the police cannot use a heat-seeking device to probe the interior of a home without a search warrant. Justice Antonin Scalia explained that “sense-enhancing technology” got information that “could not otherwise have been obtained without ‘physical intrusion into a constitutionally protected area,’ ” just as a sniffing dog did in the marijuana case.

The court has made a distinction between a vehicle and a home in earlier search-and-seizure cases. It has said the expectation about privacy is lower for vehicles, so a dog sniff outside a truck is not a search. But a search inside the truck without probable cause would violate the Fourth Amendment.

To show that they had a reliable basis for going ahead with such a search, the police must do more than show that a dog was properly trained and certified to detect drugs. Police must also be required to present enough information about a dog and a handler’s training and performance for a court to believe the dog gives accurate information.

The Florida cases might seem less than serious with Franky and Aldo as protagonists, but the outcomes for constitutional principles are significant. In the first case, the search in front of neighbors was intrusive and humiliating for the defendant. Unless the Supreme Court says that the Constitution forbids this kind of search, the sniff test at a private home without proof of wrongdoing will set a precedent for intrusion into any home.

In the second case, there were solid grounds for doubting Aldo’s accuracy. Two months after the first incident, the officer stopped the same driver and his truck for a traffic infraction. The officer again deployed Aldo, who again indicated drugs, but this time the officer’s search of the truck yielded no illegal substances. There is mounting evidence, as former Justice David Souter warned in dissent in a 2005 case, that the “infallible dog” is “a creature of legal fiction.” The justices have a duty to protect citizens from infringements on their constitutional rights, including by man’s best friend.

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