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  • Sniffing dogs unconstitutional?

    The US Supreme Court is going to decide whether or not a drug sniffing dog is "searching" your vehicle when he walks around the outside of it during a traffic stop.

    The case background is that this guy is stopped for speeding by a police officer (state highwaypatrolman?) with a K9 unit. The officer decides to walk the dog around the vehicle and the dog alerts to contraband in the trunk of the car. The trunk is popped and a crapload of dope is sitting there ready to be delivered. The drug trafficker is convicted but his conviction is appealled all the way to SCOTUS.

    Does a dog walking around your car invade your reasonable expectation to privacy? The Court has already decided that a dog sniffing luggage at an airport is not a "search". And the Court has ruled that using thermal vision technology to detect growing lamps in the basements of homes IS a "search" and requires a warrant.

    What do you guys think?
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  • #2
    Re: Sniffing dogs unconstitutional?

    The only people that would be protected by considering a drug dog a "search" would be criminals. And people are already not nearly as secure in their car as they would be at home.

    I would put smell in the same area as any other sense (mainly sight). If an officer smells pot, he can search you and your car. If he sees a gun laying on the seat, he can arrest you without a search warrant.

    Why should the dog be any different? He's an officer of the law (Don't believe me? Attacking a cop's dog is "Assault on an officer" and likely to get you beat by the police). The dog's only advantage is a much more keen sense of smell. If a human cop could smell that well, would this even be an issue?

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    • #3
      Re: Sniffing dogs unconstitutional?

      Originally posted by TheFeniX
      The only people that would be protected by considering a drug dog a "search" would be criminals. And people are already not nearly as secure in their car as they would be at home.

      I would put smell in the same area as any other sense (mainly sight). If an officer smells pot, he can search you and your car. If he sees a gun laying on the seat, he can arrest you without a search warrant.

      Why should the dog be any different? He's an officer of the law (Don't believe me? Attacking a cop's dog is "Assault on an officer" and likely to get you beat by the police). The dog's only advantage is a much more keen sense of smell. If a human cop could smell that well, would this even be an issue?
      Heh... With the exception of the first line of your response, that's almost exactly what I was going to argue after a few people had responded. You're right. This isn't some new technology that a reasonable person wouldn't expect to have used on them. If a cop smells alcohol on your breath during a traffic stop, a reasonable person would expect to have a field sobriety test conducted on them. If a cop smells the strong scent of marijuana in your car, a reasonable person would expect to be searched for the pot. Who decides exactly how keen of a sense of smell an officer is allowed to have before a "search" is being conducted by that officer?

      And as to the first line of your post, the fact is that even the best dogs have false alerts. Those alerts are usually due to drug residue, but that's beside the point. The fact that dogs aren't perfect means that law abiding citizens would be affected by this. I don't think that this aspect is what the Supreme Court is going to be debating, however...
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      • #4
        Re: Sniffing dogs unconstitutional?

        Originally posted by CingularDuality
        And as to the first line of your post, the fact is that even the best dogs have false alerts. Those alerts are usually due to drug residue, but that's beside the point. The fact that dogs aren't perfect means that law abiding citizens would be affected by this. I don't think that this aspect is what the Supreme Court is going to be debating, however...
        9 times out of 10: a cop wouldn't even bother with the dog unless you gave him a reason to. If you're nervous or jittery and have problems answering simple questions: you've probably got something to hide.

        I remember one video where a cop asked a guy if he had any weapons on him. The cops question was something like "got any guns, knives, bats, tanks, rocket launchers, etc?" It was meant to be a joke, but the guy just nervously kept saying "no. no. no."

        The cop pulled out his dog and found several bags of pot. Cops don't just randomly pull out the dog to snif peoples cars, and most of the time they do 2+ sweeps with the dog in order to make sure it's not a false alert. I doubt that things staying the way they are would affect the average citizen. When was the last time a cop pulled any crap with you (provided you weren't doing anything illegal)?

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        • #5
          Re: Sniffing dogs unconstitutional?

          Originally posted by TheFeniX
          9 times out of 10: a cop wouldn't even bother with the dog unless you gave him a reason to. If you're nervous or jittery and have problems answering simple questions: you've probably got something to hide.

          I remember one video where a cop asked a guy if he had any weapons on him. The cops question was something like "got any guns, knives, bats, tanks, rocket launchers, etc?" It was meant to be a joke, but the guy just nervously kept saying "no. no. no."

          The cop pulled out his dog and found several bags of pot. Cops don't just randomly pull out the dog to snif peoples cars, and most of the time they do 2+ sweeps with the dog in order to make sure it's not a false alert. I doubt that things staying the way they are would affect the average citizen. When was the last time a cop pulled any crap with you (provided you weren't doing anything illegal)?
          I understand what you're saying and I agree with you. For all practical purposes, drug dogs are only going to bother the bad guys.

          But our Constitution guarantees certain rights. Allowing the police to come into your house whenever you're not home wouldn't disturb a law abiding citizen, either. But we have a right to privacy. If even one person's constitutional rights are violated by the proper enforcement of a law, then that law is unconstitutional and needs to be thrown out.
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          • #6
            Re: Sniffing dogs unconstitutional?

            Originally posted by CingularDuality
            But our Constitution guarantees certain rights. Allowing the police to come into your house whenever you're not home wouldn't disturb a law abiding citizen, either.
            Red Herring: Home. A car is not your home. You are not guaranteed the same protections in your car that you are in your home (at least not in Texas).

            But we have a right to privacy. If even one person's constitutional rights are violated by the proper enforcement of a law, then that law is unconstitutional and needs to be thrown out.
            This isn't an issue of constitutionality though, this is an issue of making something covered by the Constitution by interpretation. As it sits, a dog sniffing you and you car for drugs does not violate Constitutional law.

            So do we considered it a "search" as the definition sits? I say no because if a dog can smell it from outside the car, it's "in plain sight." Just like a cop seeing the outline of a gun under your shirt warrents a search. He doesn't know for certain it's a gun (could be your novelty wallet), but he then has probable cause. Same for smell, a cop smelling beer on your breath constitutes a search or sobriety test.

            How many times have you heard someone complain that a drug dog sniffed them or their car? This guy is the first I've heard of, and he's a drug dealer.

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            • #7
              Re: Sniffing dogs unconstitutional?

              Originally posted by TheFeniX
              Red Herring: Home. A car is not your home. You are not guaranteed the same protections in your car that you are in your home (at least not in Texas).
              Not a red herring, it applies specifically to your argument that if a law only affects the privacy of bad guys, that it's OK. If that were the case, then why not let cops have access to your home?
              This isn't an issue of constitutionality though, this is an issue of making something covered by the Constitution by interpretation.
              Anything the Supreme Court hears is an issue of constitutionality... If a dog sniffing the air around you is a "search", then drug dogs without suspicion would be unconstitutional. If it's not a "search" then we'll continue to march under current law.

              Like I said, we're agreeing on what the outcome of this should be. It's absurd to try to restrict an officer's use of his schnozz because he's "searching" you... And the fact that a trained police dog usually has a keener sense of smell doesn't change that fact.

              I'm surprised that some of the, umm, herbal enthusiasts that we have here haven't disagreed with us...
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              • #8
                Re: Sniffing dogs unconstitutional?

                Absolutly not, because the dog is only capable of alerting the officer to illeagle substances. there is no invaision of privacy only swift and effective means of police resources. without the dog the search would have been conducted anyway, infact to the innocent citizen the regular search that the officer does may be more intrusive. if suspected an officer can search your vehicle, this method of looking everywhere is much more intrusive.

                i dont kow about the USA but in the UK the dog is an actual officer of the law capable of making arrests and barring union rules and such the dog is in all respects and in the eyes of the law a police officer and is given all the powers (or most of them) a regular bobby gets.

                therefore to deny the dog the right to search would deny the police officer the right to search.

                you are a law enfrocer cing, over here our officers are governed by the police and criminal evidence act of PACE ('88') This allows any officer the right to search any individual in a public place if there is any doubt that the individual is carrying offensive of illeagle equipment. quite baisically it requires "reasonable beliefe" that the person may have something on them (in their car ect) its a total judgement call. what about the US.


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                • #9
                  Re: Sniffing dogs unconstitutional?

                  Originally posted by DudeMan
                  Absolutly not, because the dog is only capable of alerting the officer to illeagle substances. there is no invaision of privacy only swift and effective means of police resources. without the dog the search would have been conducted anyway, infact to the innocent citizen the regular search that the officer does may be more intrusive. if suspected an officer can search your vehicle, this method of looking everywhere is much more intrusive.

                  i dont kow about the USA but in the UK the dog is an actual officer of the law capable of making arrests and barring union rules and such the dog is in all respects and in the eyes of the law a police officer and is given all the powers (or most of them) a regular bobby gets.

                  therefore to deny the dog the right to search would deny the police officer the right to search.

                  you are a law enfrocer cing, over here our officers are governed by the police and criminal evidence act of PACE ('88') This allows any officer the right to search any individual in a public place if there is any doubt that the individual is carrying offensive of illeagle equipment. quite baisically it requires "reasonable beliefe" that the person may have something on them (in their car ect) its a total judgement call. what about the US.
                  See, things are different here. If a state trooper pulls a car over for speeding (and nothing else), and there's nothing else suspicious about the vehicle or the driver, then he has absolutely no right to search the vehicle. Depending on the circumstances, "reasonable suspicion" may be enough to let him conduct a cursory search of the vehicle. In fact, in certain circumstances, reasonable suspicion can allow law enforcement to tear your vehicle completely apart. For the most part, however, without any suspicious behavior/evidence, a search warrant signed by a judge would be required before "searching" somebody or their property.

                  This argument is about whether or not a dog (also a law enforcement officer in some states) can be used on a speeding stop when there's no other suspicious behavior. The state is arguing that it's not a "search". The defendant is arguing that it is a "search". A police officer in these circumstances would not be allowed to search the vehicle. The dog alerting on the drugs gave the officer "reasonable suspicion" to search the vehicle.
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                  • #10
                    Re: Sniffing dogs unconstitutional?

                    well you see now your law on this really does require some reform, that is a ridiculous law that only benefits the suspect not the police. im sorry but i am always under the notion that if i have nothing to hide i have nothing to fear.

                    i have been pulled over on my bike 15 times in 2 years, why? becauuse my area has a very very high rate of thefts on my kind of bike. do i mind? well it is an inconvinience but no, because i do not carry drugs or drive illeagally. therefore the officer has done his jobe (even if he searches) and can go away knowing i am totally clean.

                    now when one day my bike is pulled and i am not the driver i am going to thank that police officer for doing his job, and that goes for drugs recovery too, a large proportion of violent crims and most other crimes are committed because of drug addiction. now if simple acts like this one takes another dealer off the street. then for the good of the law abiding citizens who should not mind the occaisional inconvinience they should thropw this out of court.


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                    • #11
                      Re: Sniffing dogs unconstitutional?

                      Originally posted by DudeMan
                      i dont kow about the USA but in the UK the dog is an actual officer of the law capable of making arrests and barring union rules and such the dog is in all respects and in the eyes of the law a police officer and is given all the powers (or most of them) a regular bobby gets.

                      "You're under arrrrrrrrrest for rrrrrrrobbery and wrrrrrreckless endangerment! Rrrrrook him, Rrrrano!"

                      So how does officer nibbles testify in court? Does he swear to tell the whole truth for a treat and a pat on the head, or do you just whack him on the nose with some newspaper if he tells a fib?

                      Conversely, can regular bobbies sniff their own crotches?

                      Here in the USA drug dogs are dogs, but I do believe if you kill one you can be prosecuted the same as if you'd killed a regular cop, but I'm mostly basing that on my understanding of the movie Half Baked, in which a pothead kills a police horse with hilarious consequences.

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                      • #12
                        Re: Sniffing dogs unconstitutional?

                        Originally posted by leejo
                        So how does officer nibbles testify in court? Does he swear to tell the whole truth for a treat and a pat on the head, or do you just whack him on the nose with some newspaper if he tells a fib?
                        You cant do that, its bribery, its illegal you know.

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                        • #13
                          Re: Sniffing dogs unconstitutional?

                          Originally posted by leejo
                          Here in the USA drug dogs are dogs, but I do believe if you kill one you can be prosecuted the same as if you'd killed a regular cop, but I'm mostly basing that on my understanding of the movie Half Baked, in which a pothead kills a police horse with hilarious consequences.
                          Well, it depends on the state. But the actions of a police dog are very much used in court. Their training and testing is entered as testimony. And, yes, in some states, assault on a police dog is assault on a public servent (a serious felony).
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                          • #14
                            Re: Sniffing dogs unconstitutional?

                            Originally posted by DudeMan
                            well you see now your law on this really does require some reform, that is a ridiculous law that only benefits the suspect not the police. im sorry but i am always under the notion that if i have nothing to hide i have nothing to fear.
                            No, that's a law that protects the privacy of innocent people. Giving the police free reign to search any vehicle on a whim is NOT justice. You just made a post about freedom and you propose that people should be forced to allow cops to do what they want to their vehicles??? No thank you...

                            I don't have anything to hide in my vehicle, but if I get pulled over for speeding and a cop asks me if he can see in my trunk, I'll politely tell him that he can't. This might inconvenience me even more, as he might call for a dog to come walk around my car, but it's the principle of the matter. I have the right to be free from unreasonable searches. And that officer does not have a reason to search my vehicle.
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                            • #15
                              Re: Sniffing dogs unconstitutional?

                              Originally posted by CingularDuality
                              Not a red herring, it applies specifically to your argument that if a law only affects the privacy of bad guys, that it's OK. If that were the case, then why not let cops have access to your home?
                              Please don't nitpick my arguement. It's a red herring because homes != cars. It also combines "slippery slope," with a hint of "moving the goalpost."

                              A completely different set of laws for homes are already on the books.

                              Also, the dog doesn't have to enter your property to smell drugs in your car and cops don't visit homes for no reason. Even if he was called there on the radio (domestic abuse, loud music, etc), he is very restricted in what he can search for (unless you're stupid and invite him in).

                              Anything the Supreme Court hears is an issue of constitutionality... If a dog sniffing the air around you is a "search", then drug dogs without suspicion would be unconstitutional. If it's not a "search" then we'll continue to march under current law.
                              In almost any traffic stop situation, the officer would have suspicion: you're breaking the law (that's why he pulled you over). This isn't an issue of cops walking out to your car while your stopped at a light for a "sniff down" or when you're parked at the mall.

                              Quit playing the big brother card.

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