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New Certification Proposed for Drug-Sniffing Dogs As They Are Wrong Far More Often Than Right

Location: 
IL
United States
A Illinois state representative has again asked fellow legislators to force police dogs to meet certification standards before being used for tasks such as sniffing for drugs at traffic stops. The bill, introduced by State Rep. Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) follows a recent investigation that showed drug-sniffing dogs, according to state data, have been wrong more often than they have been right about whether vehicles contain drugs or drug paraphernalia.
Publication/Source: 
Chicago Tribune (IL)
URL: 
http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/chibrknews-new-certification-proposed-for-drugsniffing-dogs-20110208,0,872573.story

South Dakota House Rejects Drug Tests for Welfare Recipients

Location: 
SD
United States
The South Dakota House rejected a bill that would have forced drug tests on welfare recipients to determine their eligibility. The measure failed on a vote of 32-36 after opponents said it would be impractical and would provide little help to children in poor families.
Publication/Source: 
KCAU (IA)
URL: 
http://www.kcautv.com/Global/story.asp?S=13986224

Cut Drug War Spending (Action Alert)

Hi Friends,

In a recent Q&A with YouTube viewers, President Obama said that U.S. drug policy focuses too heavily on law enforcement. He also took a huge step forward calling drug legalization an "entirely legitimate topic for debate." If you haven't taken action on the email alert I sent you last week, please take a minute to do so now. We have a great opportunity to cut funding for arrests and incarceration by treating drug use as a health issue instead of a criminal issue.

Sincerely,

Bill Piper
Director, Office of National Affairs
Drug Policy Alliance

We Are the Drug Policy Alliance.

 

 

Tell President Obama to stop wasting money on the failed war on drugs.

Take Action!

Email the President

Dear Friends,

In his State of the Union address a few days ago, President Obama said it is time for the federal government to tighten its belt and stop wasting so much money. One of the biggest – and most destructive – wastes of money is the war on drugs. President Obama is working on a new federal budget – urge him to stop wasting money on the failed war on drugs.

In these times of deficits and budget cuts, let’s send a clear message: no more money for marijuana arrests. No more money for laughably stupid anti-marijuana ads. No more money for random drug testing. No more money for SWAT raids on people's homes for suspected drug law violations. No more money for long prison sentences for low-level, nonviolent drug offenses. No more money for the drug war. Period.

Tell the President that our tax dollars should be spent more wisely.

With your help we can eliminate or cut drug war waste and dismantle the war on drugs. Please take a minute to write the White House and tell President Obama to stop wasting your tax dollars on failed drug policies.

Sincerely,

Bill Piper
Director, Office of National Affairs
Drug Policy Alliance

Iowa Legislative Panel Rejects Plan Linking Welfare to Drug Tests

Location: 
IA
United States
A legislative panel has rejected a proposal to require people to pass a drug test before being eligible for state welfare benefits. Republican Rep. Matt Windschitl, of Missouri Valley, had proposed the requirement, but a subcommittee blocked the bill because of questions about how it would be implemented.
Publication/Source: 
Sioux City Journal (IA)
URL: 
http://www.siouxcityjournal.com/news/state-and-regional/iowa/article_c262d876-2f07-11e0-a203-001cc4c002e0.html

Nebraska Lawmakers Won't Require Electronic Drug Log for Cold Medicine

Location: 
NE
United States
Nebraska lawmakers have dropped a bill that would require pharmacists to check an electronic database before selling products containing pseudoephedrine, an ingredient sometimes used to make methamphetamine. The bill, LB20, from Senator Beau McCoy of Omaha was tabled after disagreement over whether pharmacists should be immune from lawsuits under the proposed law.
Publication/Source: 
Sioux City Journal (IA)
URL: 
http://www.siouxcityjournal.com/news/state-and-regional/nebraska/article_1c10f79c-2efc-11e0-a78f-001cc4c002e0.html

Advocates for Michigan's Medical Marijuana Law Fear Disclosure of Records Will Hurt Patients

Location: 
MI
United States
As founder of Michigan Association of Compassion Clubs, Jamie Lowell thinks the federal government's request for records on the state's medical marijuana registry will discourage legal use. He knows of a teacher who could use marijuana, but she is terrified of being identified. "When you get the application, you are under the impression all of the information will remain confidential," he said.
Publication/Source: 
The Grand Rapids Press (MI)
URL: 
http://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2011/02/advocates_for_michigans_medica.html

Warrantless GPS Tracking Facing Fourth Amendment Challenges [FEATURE]

GPS satellite
by Clarence Walker

[Editor’s note: This feature story is part two of an occasional series involving electronic surveillance and its impact on the Fourth Amendment in drug investigations and other criminal matters in the United States. Read the first installment in the series here. Clarence Walker is a Houston-based criminal justice journalist. He can be reached at cwalkerinvestigate@gmail.com.]

Recent federal and state court decisions that overturned narcotic convictions of suspected drug dealers as a result of law enforcement using warrantless GPS tracking devices to watch suspects have triggered an intense debate over the Fourth Amendment, which provides citizens against unreasonable search and seizures.

The GPS controversy is at the center of a raging legal discussion over privacy rights: Should law enforcement  be allowed to install a GPS on a vehicle without a warrant during criminal investigations to track a suspect’s movement 24-7, and does warrantless tracking violate a person’s privacy although they are being watched by the police in public?

Two significant 2010 decisions on privacy rights under the Fourth Amendment highlight the continuing struggles that courts around the country are having around GPS tracking. In August, the DC 9th Circuit Court overturned the conviction of Antoine Jones based on police using a warrantless GPS to connect Jones to places containing several kilos of cocaine. Jones was sentenced to life without parole at Supermax federal prison in Florence Colorado. (Read more about the Antoine Jones case here.)

Legal experts say this case might go before the US Supreme Court. Federal prosecutors were denied an en-banc hearing in November to have a full court to throw out the 9th Circuit decision, and they have until February 14 to petition the Supreme Court to  consider their appeal of the Jones case. In the meantime, Jones continues to sit in prison.

"When the court denied the government an en-banc hearing, this sets up the Antoine Jones case for the Supreme Court to decide if GPS tracking violates the Fourth Amendment. The importance of the Jones case is that it would be the first time the Supreme Court would decide GPS surveillance in relation to search and seizure," said Stephen Lecklar, who wrote the appeal that reversed Jones conviction.

In a second case, Delaware v. Holden, on December 28, Delaware Superior Court Judge Jan Jurden reversed a suppression hearing from a lower court involving drug charges against Michael Holden. Holden, a Newark resident, was stopped by police carrying 10 pounds of marijuana. The evidence showed that prior to arresting Holden, police used GPS tracking without a warrant to follow him for 20 days.

Antoine Jones remains in federal prison pending, he hopes, one last government appeal. (Image courtesy the author)
According to press accounts, Deputy Attorney General Brian Robertson argued that information from the GPS that police attached to Holden’s vehicle was only a part of a larger "multifaceted case" against the marijuana trafficker. But Holden’s attorney, John Decker, told the court that "the 20-day long use of the GPS amounted to an unreasonable search under the state constitution and violated his client's privacy without probable cause."

"The advance of technology will continue ad infinitum," said Judge Jurden in throwing out the charge. "An Orwellian state is now technologically feasible. Without adequate judicial preservation of privacy, there’s nothing to protect our citizens from being tracked 24-7. And if no warrant is required for such surveillance any individual could be tracked indefinitely without suspicion of any crime by police without probable cause."

Meanwhile, Antoine Jones remains frustrated over the fact of being unable to be released on bond although his conviction has been reversed and the appellate courts this past November also denied the feds to an en-banc hearing to strike down the ninth circuit original decision.

"We are pleased that the Court of Appeals declined the Government's request for en banc reconsideration and reaffirmed the constitutional concerns identified by the ninth circuit," Jones' appellate attorney, Stephen Leckar, said in an email sent to reporters covering the case.

But Jones questions why he's still in prison."My conviction has been overturned, the en-banc hearing was denied,  the appeal process is over but I am still in this hellhole," he wrote to the author. "The feds' last shot is to petition the US Supreme Court, but the experts have said that only one-percent of petitioners are chosen for review."

"The court should release Mr. Jones on bond," said California attorney Diane Bass, who handles federal drug cases.

Chances for Jones's release on bond pending the government's next course of action are unclear. "The issues that a court looks at when deciding whether to release someone on bond are, is the defendant a flight risk or a danger to society," Bass said. "In an appeal situation, they also look at whether there are viable issues on appeal. Drug cases carry a presumption of flight, because of the mandatory minimum sentences which the defendant has the burden of rebutting. And the court would require an equity of $100,000 or more. I would say that since there's a possibility the Supreme Court will deny certiorari in this case, the court would be wise to release Mr. Jones on appeal."

http://stopthedrugwar.com/files/jjurd_10.jpg
Delaware Superior Court Judge Jan Jurden
While Jones sits in federal prison pending the resolution of his case, the thorny issue of warrantless GPS tracking and the Fourth Amendment continues to vex the courts. When the issue finally arrives at the Supreme Court, it will have to decide first whether GPS tracking constitutes a "search" under the Fourth Amendment, and second whether long-term, continuous GPS tracking without a warrant amounts to an illegal search.


"There's no clear Supreme Court guidance on this issue," said John Verdi, a senior counsel at the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a DC-based advocacy group. "Courts have left the states to decide what should be done using their own state constitutions."

Some states, like Texas, have specific requirements law enforcement officers must meet to obtain a warrant for GPS tracking. What isn't too well publicized is that an officer can ask the court for a tracking order based on reasonable suspicion as opposed to requesting a warrant which require a higher burden of probable cause.

Steve Baldassano, a senior-level prosecutor with the Harris County District Attorney Office in Houston explained:  "A tracking order requires 'reasonable suspicion.' If it's okay for a cop to follow someone in a car, it's not that much worse if the cops watch a person using electronic signals."

An unidentified Houston Police Department narcotic officer offered this blunt view: "Theoretically, a person can have a GPS tracker placed on their vehicle for life as long as the investigator has reason to believe the person will commit criminal offenses."

Whatever the realities on the street, the state and federal courts have split on warrantless GPS tracking and related issues. Courts in Wisconsin and Virginia have supported warrantless tracking, while courts in New Jersey, New York, Oregon, and Washington have ruled against it. With the federal appeals court also split, the issue seem ripe for Supreme Court review.

In the meantime, big brother is staying busy. Maryland state officials announced last year they would implement a statewide network in 2011 to collect data from automatic license plate readers. "The license plate reader provides the plate number, exact time, and the GPS location of a vehicle upon sight," the Muckraker blog noted.

With technological innovation fueling the rise of the surveillance state, preserving one's privacy from the state looks to be ever more difficult. By the time the Supreme Court has sorted out warrantless GPS tracking, there will doubtless be some new form of surveillance that we will have to be litigated.

Drug-Sniffing Dog Performance Massively Affected by Handlers' Beliefs

A new study by researchers at UC Davis has found that drug-sniffing dog/handler teams' performance is affected by human handlers' beliefs, possibly in response to subtle, unintentional handler cues. The study found that detection-dog/handler teams erroneously 'alerted,' or identified a scent, when there was no scent present more than 200 times-particularly when the handler believed that there was scent present.
Publication/Source: 
Sify News (India)
URL: 
http://www.sify.com/news/drug-and-explosive-sniffing-dog-performance-is-affected-by-handlers-beliefs-news-international-lcbr4offacb.html

Bill Would Limit Firings of Medical Marijuana Users

Location: 
CA
United States
Californians who use medical marijuana outside of work would be protected from job dismissal due to medical marijuana use under a bill that has been introduced by state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco. The bill, SB129, would make it illegal for an employer to consider either a worker's status as a registered patient or a positive drug test when making hiring and firing decisions. The bill would not change existing laws that bar employees from using medical marijuana at the workplace or during work hours.
Publication/Source: 
San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
URL: 
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/01/29/BAQV1HFPNH.DTL

Marijuana Activists Fight DEA Efforts to Eviscerate Medical Privacy

Location: 
MI
United States
If the State of Michigan won't protect the people, activists will. So went the cry of medical marijuana groups in Michigan, concerned that the privacy of medical marijuana patients there is at grave risk. The Michigan Association of Compassion Clubs filed an emergency motion this week to halt efforts by the federal government to gain access to the records of several Michigan medical marijuana patients.
Publication/Source: 
Change.org (DC)
URL: 
http://criminaljustice.change.org/blog/view/marijuana_activists_fight_dea_efforts_to_eviscerate_medical_privacy

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