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NACDL News: Dog Sniffs Can Establish Probable Cause for a Search
By Ivan J. Dominguez
NACDL News columns.
In Florida v. Harris (No. 11-817), a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court on Feb. 19, 2013, enshrined in law a dog’s wide latitude to determine the constitutional right of Americans to be free from unwarranted search and seizure. NACDL argued in its amicus curiae brief to the Court that an alert by a “trained” or “certified” drug-detection dog by itself should be insufficient to establish probable cause.
Real-world data demonstrate that even trained or certified dogs have a high rate of false alerts; indeed, they are inherently unreliable. NACDL had urged that the Supreme Court embrace the more rigorous and rights-protecting standard set by the Florida Supreme Court, but the justices said the status quo is good enough and found that “a sniff is up to snuff” even in the absence of specific evidentiary requirements for the government to meet in order to be deemed to have properly relied upon a dog sniff.
NACDL President Steven D. Benjamin said, “This decision creates a presumption tha
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