Court upholds use of drug-sniffing dog

Feb. 19, 2013 at 10:45 AM

WASHINGTON, Feb. 19 (UPI) -- The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously Tuesday in a Florida case in favor of the use of a trained drug-sniffing dog, Aldo, during a routine traffic stop.

The ruling preserves the use of drug-sniffing dogs, a key element of law enforcement during traffic stops and in other situations.

Clayton Harris was stopped in Liberty County by a sheriff's deputy canine officer for driving on an expired license. The officer's dog Aldo sniffed and alerted for drugs on the driver's side, causing the deputy to search the interior of the truck.

The deputy said he discovered supplies to manufacture methamphetamine, which Harris admitted to making and using, the state said. After his lawyer's motion to suppress the evidence at trial was denied, Harris pleaded no contest and was convicted of possessing the restricted chemical pseudoephedrine with intent to use it to manufacture methamphetamine, in violation of state law.

But the Florida Supreme Court eventually ruled evidence that a dog has been trained and certified to detect narcotics, standing alone, is not sufficient to establish the dog's reliability for determining probable cause.

The Florida Supreme Court thus effectively negated "the narcotics detection dog as an important crime fighting tool for law enforcement and society," state officials said.

Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the state court.

Writing for the full court, Justice Elena Kagan said because training and testing records supported Aldo's reliability in detecting drugs and Harris failed to undermine that evidence, the officer had probable cause to search Harris's truck.

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