Search and Seizure: Florida Defense Attorneys Challenge Drug Dog "Hits"

Defense attorneys in Florida's Sarasota and Manatee counties are challenging the reliability of drug dog "hits" in drug possession and trafficking cases. So far, the tactic has produced mixed results.
drug dog
Drug-sniffing dogs are increasingly used in traffic stops. Thanks to the US Supreme Court, which bizarrely ruled that a drug dog search is not a search, no search warrant or probable cause is needed for police to sic the dogs on unwary travelers. Controlled by a police handler, the drug dogs typically circle the vehicle once or twice and "alert" their handlers if they smell drugs. That "alert" then constitutes probable cause for a warrantless search of the vehicle.

But some drug dogs are just too good to be believed. In one case reported by the Tampa Tribune, a now-retired drug dog named Talon "alerted" on every single vehicle he sniffed during a four-month period -- even though drugs were found in less than half of them.

Such results call into question the dog's reliability and can result in a successful motion to suppress the evidence in drug cases, usually leading to the dismissal of charges. That's what happened in a recent Manatee County case. Circuit Judge Johnes Riva said in a ruling the dog's record of false "hits" gave her no choice but to throw out the evidence in a drug case.

But another drug dog, Zuul, who belongs to the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office, fared better in court recently. Even though, like Talon, Zuul "hit" on almost every car he sniffed even though no drugs were found in half of them, Sarasota County Circuit Court Judge Charles Roberts ruled that his nose was reliable enough to justify searching vehicles. Roberts bought prosecutors' and deputies' arguments that in every case where Zuul "alerted," either drugs were found or people in the vehicle admitted to using or possessing drugs in the recent past. That ruling has set up an appeal that could be headed for the Florida Supreme Court.

That set well with the Sarasota Sheriff's Office, which, along with other law enforcement entities, worried that Riva's earlier ruling against Talon would set a trend in case law. More rulings like Riva's would be "catastrophic to the way we've been doing business," said sheriff's office Sgt. Brian Olree, who oversees the K-9 division.

Now, local defense attorneys are checking the reliability of at least three other local drug dogs. "I don't think any of the dogs the Sarasota sheriff's office uses are qualified to detect drugs to get probable cause for searches," Assistant Public Defender Mark Adams told the Tribune.

Defense attorney Liane McCurry, who first successfully challenged Talon's drug-sniffing acumen, told the Tribune she expects to see more challenges to drug dogs' reliability. "I think every attorney should do that," she said.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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Drug dogs

The whole concept is becoming ridiculous. A dog can be trained to do just about anything, including "alerting" by a hidden hand signal. Using the dogs just means that the police can search anything, anytime they want.


because unlike our criminals Law Enforcement Officers have integrity.

Oh you got to be kidding

Oh you got to be kidding right. Cops lie to people all the time. They are told to lie by their bosses to try and get a person to incriminate themselves. To use a dog for drug sniffing, even if the dogs are right 100%, is a violation of the 5th Amendment of the Bill of Rights (Also known as SUPREEM LAW OF THE LAND). With out our rights being guaranteed to us how are you free, I ask you, how? You know there are other counties you can go to where they don't allow the people to own a fire arm for protection, they don't allow dissidents or protest to form a grievance within the state, they take personal property for government or public use without just compensation, and they don't honor the Writ of Habeas Corpus. By all means please go Mexico, China, or any other fine country with a consolidated power state, because people in the U.S. are F-ing it up for those who know their rights. P.S. the drug war is UN-CONSTITUIONAL. I’m not saying drugs are good, I’m saying the government doesn’t have the right to lock a person up in jail for owning drugs or using them. Yes it's unmoral to use drugs but so is adultery, masturbation, porn, and eating your buggers. You gona lock me up for picking my nose?

" More rulings like Riva's

" More rulings like Riva's would be "catastrophic to the way we've been doing business," said sheriff's office Sgt. Brian Olree, who oversees the K-9 division.

Doing business? Should our law enforcement be conducting business, or protecting and serving the the citizens and their interests?

how it looks to the cops

"catastrophic to the way we've been doing business,"said sheriff's office Sgt. Brian Olree

the shakedown business...armed robbery institutionalized....half the cars they stop have drugs in them....wonder how much of that is a result of profiling?



"Judge" Roberts Of Sarasota Was A Career Prosecutor

Judge Roberts was a career prosecutor b/4 he became a "Judge". He seems to know that by always ruling in this manner, i.e. for "law enforcement" (a real joke b/c he votes for AUTHORITY not law) he will have no problem remaining a "Judge" - - people do not know the vast majority of Judges are ex-prosecutors - - thus you have 2 prosecutors in the room in a case against the defendant - - Amerikan Justass . . . .

Police State

the us is fast becomming a police state, police dogs, taser guns, if you are stopped for any reason the police may point a gun at you for any reason. The nazi's have nothing on us good ole boys in the US.

I Got Effed

While visting in florida for a wedding i ran into a road block and had to go throught he whole "license, registration,and insurance" process, but unfortunately i didnt have my current registration papers on me, and my car was registered and up-to-date in the state im from, so they asked me to pull even further fromthe roadblock to "let me look further for the papers". Now while i was sitting there with my friends (by the way there were four of us and we all skateboard and are in our late teen years, so im kinda wondering about profiling legitimacy too..) an office from the narcotics units brought out a dug dog and ran it by y car, and it alerted for drugs in my car twice. Now im not gonna lie, I did have a 4 grams of pot and two pipes with me, but what im wondering was, where the heck did they have the right to bring the drug dog out? and if all this is true about dogs giving false-positive alerts nearly half the time, can i contest this? let it be known that this happened at 12 am and i wasnt able to get any sleep before seeing a judge the next morning via webcam at 9 am the next/same day, so i was quite out of it, literally falling asleep waiting to hear the judge, and im also questioning whether i was in the right state of mind to do anything bc i couldnt really hear the judge too well as he was talking and i was being giving papers to sign. also, the lawyer they provided had only just read over my case, like he did the some 15-20 ppl before me, when he said i should just pleadguilty and gave me no other options. i am aware of some of my rights but io seriously feel like i had/have plentyof room to contest and appeal the charges of possession of marijuana an periphenalia.

Effed, You should be signed


You should be signed on as "I Got Caught", not "I Got Effed", because that's essentially what happened. You were breaking the law and now you want to blame the system and want to use a technicality to get you out of the trouble you created for yourself. Grow up and start taking responsibility for your own choices that have consequences in the adult world.

Reply to person who talked to effed

It is the system that is broken and if you were to look in to things further the police have tthe right to brake everyone of our rights without repercussion. if you lived in florida you would know that, further more y would acholol and perscription drugs be legal and pot not CUZ YOU CANT CONTROL IT.


You want to stop drug crime in this country??? Fine, let's just get rid of all the drug laws.

To put some one in jail for a substance is ridiculous. Or to label some one a criminal for possessing a substance. But then again, America has and will to continue to keep giving up freedoms. Its all down hill.

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