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Supreme Court Decides Dog-Sniff Case

Police searches can be intrusive and humiliating, and this week the Supreme Court of the United States made it a little easier for police to justify warrantless searches of cars. There are many ways an experienced criminal defense attorney can challenge a search of your vehicle or person, and retaining a lawyer early can maximize your chances of getting the best possible result in your case.

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Earlier this week, the Supreme Court issues its decision in Florida v. Harris, in which it held that an “alert” from a trained drug-sniffing dog can establish probable cause to search a suspect’s vehicle.  Specifically, it held that evidence of a dog’s training and certification was sufficient to justify a warrantless search of a vehicle based upon a dog’s alert on that vehicle.

Harris arose from a 2006 stop of Florida resident Clayton Harris for driving with expired tags. According to the officer who stopped Harris, he was acting nervous and disoriented, and as a result, the officer walked his canine partner around Harris’s vehicle. The dog alerted on the driver-side door handle, indicating the presence of a suspicious odor. Upon searching the vehicle, the officer found materials that are involved in the manufacture of methamphetamine and arrested Harris. At trial, Harris unsuccessfully moved to have the evidence suppressed based upon a lack of probable cause for the search, and ultimately pled no contest to the charges and was sentenced to 2 years in prison and 5 years of probation. On appeal, the Florida Supreme Court overturned his conviction, holding that the state did not present sufficient evidence to establish the reliability of the dog’s alert, and therefore the alert did not justify a warrantless search of Harris’s car. The state appealed to the United States Supreme Court, who earlier this week issued its decision overturning the Florida Supreme Court.

In its opinion, the Court held that evidence of a dog’s training and certification is sufficient to establish that an alert constitutes probable cause justifying a search of a vehicle. The Court articulated the standard to determine whether probable cause existed as “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.” According to the Justices, a trained drug-sniffing dog’s alert meets that standard.

Contact a Dallas criminal defense lawyer for a consultation

If you have been charged with a crime in the state of Texas, you should contact a criminal lawyer as soon as possible for a consultation. The law office of Starr Law, P.C. is dedicated to protecting the rights of Texans accused of crimes, and is committed to obtaining the best possible outcome in each case we take. To schedule a free initial consultation with one of our attorneys, contact us today at (214) 219-8440 or via email through the contact form on the right side of this page.

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