Search 'n' Sniff Update


I wrote about the case of Illinois v. Caballes, which concerns whether police can subject a driver pulled over for speeding to a drug dog sniff-search without further suspicion, for our July issue. Oral arguments in that case are today, and recordings should be available in MP3 format at Oyez at some point soon. In the meantime, check out the American Civil Liberties Union's amicus brief.

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  1. I’m very interested in this case.

    It sounds strange saying it, but I’ve always felt that random drug dog searches were invasive.

    Sure, walking the hound around a car doesn’t seem that invasive – but I personally feel that the cops shouldn’t employ extraordinary means in finding drugs when there is no reasonable need to do so.

    So for instance, let’s say you’re stopped at a ‘seat-belt check point’ – it’s not in the right of the cops to ask you to open your trunk or to frisk you unless they have reasonable suspicion you’re doing something illegal. By using the extra-human senses of the dog the cops are in effect going around the physical (and very real legal) barriers preventing them from an invasive search.

    The cops should rely on their own five senses when interacting with the innocent public during routine traffic shops.

    However, I could see how the court would go the other way on this case – after all the particles that the dog is detecting with its nose are obviously “outside” or have escaped from your car… in effect it is similar being pulled over and having drugs laying on the dash board for everyone to see.

    I guess it comes down to how cops should augment their senses with both dogs and other technology. (Imagine when hand held x-ray guns/cameras come out – I’m sure cops will try to use them to look in your trunk w/o your permission.)

    The implications for the case are interesting – after all, if cops can’t use dogs to sniff innocent motorist’s cars then what right do they have to zap us with radar on the assumption that we might be speeding?

    I?m not suggesting that we take radar guns away, but it is interesting to think about.

  2. Roy Caballes’ name sounds like a hispanic male. No wonder he got the treatment.

    In Washington State, the Feds are trying to force the state car ferry system, the largest in the nation, to random searches, due to concerns about terrorism. The state constitution forbids such searches.

    I would have no prolem with State Troopers searching for bombs; I do think they should be restricted from using such searches as a fishing expedition for anything under the sun.

    Although I guess if they found a dead body in someone’s trunk, they might not be able to ignore it.

  3. When will someone with influence connect the dots and realize that it’s the Drug War (stupid) that keeps bringing on these 4th amendment tests.

    Maybe W will appoint Judge Grey to replace Renquist. 🙂

    I’ve probably misspelled both names, but what does it matter in Fantasyland?

  4. All I know is that they can in South Dakota, or at least could 6 years ago.

  5. Isaac, you are so right. This kind of stuff just makes me sick.

    Unfortunately, it seems to be all about the money. The state wants it to stand so they can get $200,000+ outta the guy, seize his property, etc. The drug war makes a lot of people a lot of money, both covertly and overtly, legally and illegally. I can’t imagine it can keep going forever, as more and more people seem to be realising the injustice and stupidity of it, but when you look at the billions of dollars, it doesn’t give me much hope, either.

    Just a sad, sad state of affairs. Honestly, if it wasn’t for the drug war, I would be so much more trusting of the gov’t and the police. And not only because I’ve partaken of plenty of illegal drugs in my life. It is just so counter to what our nation was founded upon (and yes, I know, things weren’t all sugar canes and gingerbread houses “back in the day” either, but c’mon).

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