Skip to main content

Aldo
Don't you dare question Aldo
That dog? His name is Aldo, and he's a German shepherd who has been trained to detect methamphetamine, marijuana, cocaine, heroin and ecstasy. You don't want to mess with Aldo.

When Aldo's officer, William Wheetley, pulled over Clayton Harris’s truck because it had an expired license plate, Harris looked visibly nervous, unable to sit still, shaking and breathing rapidly. He also had an open can of beer in the truck’s cup holder, and did not consent to his car's being searched. That doesn't stop Aldo, who was summoned over and started signalling that he smelled drugs by the driver's door handle. Wheetley concluded that gave him probable cause for a search, and while he didn't find anything Aldo normally finds, he did find, umm ...  

200 loose pseudoephedrine pills, 8,000 matches, a bottle of hydrochloric acid, two containers of antifreeze, and a coffee filter full of iodine crystals—all ingredients for making methamphetamine.
Harris was arrested and Mirandized, and confessed to cooking meth. Harris later challenged the arrest on the grounds that while trained, Aldo's skills were not properly verified. The Florida Supreme Court agreed, holding that objective evidence such as field performance records (showing false positives, for example) and other objective evidence about the dog's reliability were needed, given that the police only kept a log of when Aldo did correctly find contraband.

Come below the fold and learn what the Supreme Court had to say about Aldo.

Today, a unanimous Supreme Court reversed, with Justice Kagan writing the opinion allowing this dog to have his day. Basically, the Court decides, Aldo's credibility must be determined based on the totality of the circumstances, just like any other informant, and not one test:

The question—similar to every inquiry into probable cause—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. A sniff is up to snuff when it meets that test....

[E]vidence of a dog’s satisfactory performance in a certification or training program can itself provide sufficient reason to trust his alert. If a bona fide organization has certified a dog after testing his reliability in a controlled setting, a court can presume (subject to any conflicting evidence offered) that the dog’s alert provides probable cause to search. The same is true, even in the absence of formal certification, if the dog has recently and successfully completed a training program that evaluated his proficiency in locating drugs. After all, law enforcement units have their own strong incentive to use effective training and certification programs, because only accurate drug-detection dogs enable officers to locate contraband without incurring unnecessary risks or wasting limited time and resources....

Harris principally contended in the trial court that because Wheetley did not find any of the substances Aldo was trained to detect, Aldo’s two alerts must have been false. But we have already described the hazards of inferring too much from the failure of a dog’s alert to lead to drugs, and here we doubt that Harris’s logic does justice to Aldo’s skills. Harris cooked and used methamphetamine on a regular basis; so as Wheetley later surmised, Aldo likely responded to odors that Harris had transferred to the driver’s-side door handle of his truck. A well-trained drug-detection dog should alert to such odors; his response to them might appear a mistake, but in fact is not. And still more fundamentally, we do not evaluate probable cause in hindsight, based on what a search does or does not turn up.

Good dog! Here's a treat. The officer has probable cause, and the arrest stands.

SCOTUSblog has the case documents, including an oral argument transcript with questions like:

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: So you don't know whether -- in other words, are dogs good at sniffing things, or are they -- can they be good at bombs, but not good at meth?

MR. PALMORE: Well, I don't know the specific answer to that. I think once a dog kind of chooses a major, that's what they stick with. But I think the important point is that -

JUSTICE SCALIA: You don't want coon dogs chasing squirrels.

Originally posted to Adam B on Tue Feb 19, 2013 at 09:34 AM PST.

Also republished by Discussing The Law: TalkLeft's View On Law and Politics and Daily Kos.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site