Well everybody, wave goodbye to your 4th amendment right . . . buh bye!
The supreme court has decided a dog is the only thing standing between you and the (now defunct) 4th amendment of the (now defunct) constitution that used to protect us against unreasonable searches and seizures.
Now if a cop wants to search your car or your person, all s/he needs is a dog and to utter the magic words “My dog alerted.” That’s it. A dog is all the probable cause the law needs to search you and your person.
What’s next? Deciding guilt or innocence using a magic 8 ball?
The supreme court made this decision despite some drug-sniffing dogs being proven wrong more than half the time, no mandate that police be required to video record the dog encounter and any doggy indications of a “hit” or “alert” and the police not being required to track the historic accuracy of their dogs.
The dog that ratted you out may have been wrong 75% of the time in past encounters, but that doesn’t matter because, as (in)justice kagan so brilliantly put it, “the dog may not have made a mistake at all,” instead it “may have detected substances that were too well hidden or present in quantities too small for the officer to locate.”
See? Dogs aren’t wrong, us humans just can’t corroborate their unerring accuracy.
So a dog is called, you get searched and/or arrested and you don’t have any way to cross-examine a dog or check the dog’s record of hits and misses or even review a video recording of your encounter with the dog. It’s just your word against a dog and a cop.
Your 4th amendment rights have just gone to the dogs, literally. Good doggy. Shi**y supreme court. We are f**ked.
Today the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that “a court can presume” an alert by a drug-sniffing dog provides probable cause for a search “if a bona fide organization has certified a dog after testing his reliability in a controlled setting” or “if the dog has recently and successfully completed a training program that evaluated his proficiency in locating drugs.” The justices overturned a 2011 decision in which the Florida Supreme Court said police must do more than assert that a dog has been properly trained. They deemed that court’s evidentiary requirements too “rigid” for the “totality of the circumstances” test used to determine when a search is constitutional. In particular, the Court said it was not appropriate to demand evidence of a dog’s performance in the field, as opposed to its performance on tests by police. While the Court’s decision in Florida v. Harris leaves open the possibility that defense attorneys can contest the adequacy of a dog’s training or testing and present evidence that the animal is prone to false alerts, this ruling will encourage judges to accept self-interested proclamations about a canine’s capabilities, reinforcing the use of dogs to transform hunches into probable cause.
Writing for the Court, Justice Elena Kagan accepts several myths that allow drug dogs to function as “search warrants on leashes” even though their error rates are far higher than commonly believed:
Myth #1: Field performance is a misleading indicator of a dog’s reliability. When a dog alerts and no drugs are found (as happened twice in this case), “the dog may not have made a mistake at all,” Kagan says. Instead it “may have detected substances that were too well hidden or present in quantities too small for the officer to locate,” she suggests. “Or the dog may have smelled the residual odor of drugs previously in the vehicle or on the driver’s person.” This is a very convenient, completely unfalsifiable excuse for police and prosecutors. But probable cause is supposed to hinge on whether there is a “fair probability” that a search will discover evidence of a crime, and the possibility that dogs will react to traces of drugs that are no longer present makes them less reliable for that purpose.
Myth #2: Police department testing is the gold standard by which a dog’s reliability should be judged. Kagan says the uncertainties of the real world “do not taint records of a dog’s performance in standard training and certification settings,” because “the designers of an assessment know where drugs are hidden and where they are not.” That is precisely the problem when the designers are the dog trainers, as is usually the case, because they may deliberately or subconsciously indicate the locations of the drugs. Lawrence Myers, a veterinarian and neurophysiologist at Auburn University who is an expert on dogs’ olfactory capabilities, observes: “Typically if a cop says, ‘I train the dog every week,’ he’s hiding things and then going around and finding the things he’s hidden. Putting something out, you as the handler, then taking the dog through, you are going to seriously skew the training; you’re going to cue. You can’t help it; you know exactly where the damned thing is.”
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