Warrants Have Gone to the Dogs in Searches and Drug Cases

Warrants Have Gone to the Dogs in Searches and Drug Cases

Supreme Court Ruling on Drug Dogs

When can dogs sign a search warrant for drugs? This week, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that dogs can provide probable cause for a search. The ruling in Florida v. Harris was unanimous. It is still possible that citizens accused will be able to challenge the reliability of the dog’s performance. This can be done based on the “totality of the circumstances”. For example, challenges can be made to the adequacy of a dogs training, which will require a great deal of leg work on the part of the attorney making the challenge to the search where drugs or other evidence is involved.

Attorneys challenging the reliability of a drug dog’s performance should be getting extensive records concerning the dog’s training, the handler’s record and training and performance of the drug dog. Is the dog prone to false positives or alerts? There is no way to know this without doing the work to find out. Usually, a combination of subpoenas and open records requests are necessary to get the underlying information which is unique to each case.

Contact an Attorney

If you have a situation where a dog is the one making the accusation that allows law enforcement to gain entry or conduct a search, make sure you have an attorney who knows how to fight these “dog sniffs” or “dog alerts”. Our Supreme Court thinks it’s perfectly fine to allow dogs to act as a warrant-signing judge right on the scene. We cannot accept that at face value by assuming that the dog has been properly trained or works properly.

This new decision may give the prosecution a false sense of comfort in the reliability of this tactic. Unfortunately, charges involving all types of drugs have extremely serious consequences. This is the case whether it be marijuana or cocaine or any of a long list of drugs. Unless a citizen accused is willing to accept these consequences without questioning the assurances of a government law enforcement officer about his or her dog, a citizen accused faces a serious fight. Make sure your attorney is ready for that battle.