Used to be, dogs just ate your homework.
Now, according to the U.S. Supreme Court, they can also send you to the hoosegow.
In an unanimous decision Feb. 19, SCOTUS overruled a 2011 lower-court decision that deemed police must do more than assert that a dog has been properly trained.
“The question…is whether all the facts surrounding a dog’s alert, viewed through the lens of common sense, would make a reasonably prudent person think that a search would reveal contraband or evidence of a crime,” Justice Elena Kagan wrote. “A sniff is up to snuff when it meets that test.“
It stems from a case from not-so-aptly-named Liberty County FL, where a police dog named Aldo “alerted”—which means he detected contraband—during a routine traffic stop, according to The Wall Street Journal. Aldo’s search yielded zero drugs. However, Aldo did find ingredients needed to make meth.
And, hence, the driver was arrested. Because of Aldo.
Reason magazine offers some myths Kagan and Co. fell for in making their decision. The points seem pretty valid.
Myths aside, this appears to be a blow to our 4th Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure. What’s to stop a cop from pulling anyone over on a sidewalk due to his dog “alerting?”
The justices “have given law enforcement a green light to do away with the Fourth Amendment merely by uttering the magic words, ‘My dog alerted,’” said Florida defense attorney Jeff Weiner.
Potentially worse, given the fact that dogs can’t speak English–or any human language–it’s more difficult to defend oneself in court, as there is no cross-examination possible.
…Or is there?
Defense attorney: What does woof mean?
Defense attorney: Weren’t you initially alerted by my client’s bag of Snausages® brand dog treats, which he bought for his own dog?
Prosecutor: I move to strike that last comment down. He’s badgering the witness, your honor.