Supreme Court to Rule on the Use of Drug Dogs

By Teresa Anderson

The officer deployed Aldo, a drug sniffing dog. Aldo alerted on the driver’s side door of the truck. When officers searched the truck, they found 200 pseudoephedrine pills, eight boxes of matches, and muriatic acid—all precursor ingredients for creating methamphetamine. Harris was arrested. At trial, Harris argued that the search of his truck was illegal because the alert of the dog did not constitute a basis for the search. On appeal, the Florida Supreme Court agreed. The court found that the state had not established the dog’s credentials and that the dog’s reliability may be based on a variety of factors.

For example, the court noted that Aldo was trained to detect cannabis, cocaine, ecstasy, heroin, and methamphetamine but was not trained to detect alcohol or pseudoephedrine. Similarly, the field training, false alert rate, and handler training could also be considered when determining whether Aldo was reliable.

The court ruled: “In summary, where adequate and comprehensive records are maintained on a particular narcotics dog, and include results of controlled alerts made in training, as well as actual alerts in the field, the clog's reliability could be sufficiently established either through the records themselves or testimony from the dog's trainer who maintained the records. In this respect, the dog's alert is analogous to information provided by a reliable informant, and his alert without more could establish probable cause.”

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear separate arguments in the cases on Wednesday, October 31. The Court will issue its decisions before the end of the term in summer 2013.

photo by Beige Alert/flickr


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