The Supreme Court is back in session after Hurricane Sandy shut down oral arguments on Tuesday, October 30th. They’re slated to decide cases originating in Florida that deal with the constitutionality of drug sniffing dogs.
The LA Times article on the subject references an experiment conducted by UC Davis. Experimenters told 18 police dog handlers and their drug-sniffing dogs that they “had hidden small amounts of illegal drugs in four rooms of a church.” The dogs alerted their handlers a total of 225 times to the presence of drugs. But in actuality, the church was clean. There had been no drugs (Read the article here).
This raises several issues in regards to probable cause. Are the unconscious (or overt) desires of the handler affecting the dog’s behavior? This study suggests that they do. Car stops aside, SCOTUS is hearing a case that deals with a dog sniff at the front door of a home. The Florida court overturned the conviction of a man who was found guilty of growing marijuana plants in his home after police officers approached his front door and the drug sniffing dog detected illegal drugs.
The counter argument is that unlike other detection devices, such as infrared technology, dog sniffing alerts only to that behavior which is criminal, since they are trained to detect specific illegal substances. But if what they’re detecting isn’t there, how reliable can they really be?
What do you think?