Can I Get a Free Sniff?

OK, Franky is good. As a K-9 drug detector dog, he can smell marijuana inside a home from outside the closed door of a home. The problem is, Franky’s handlers, the Miami-Dade Police Department, violated the homeowner’s rights in snooping for a sniff outside the home when other evidence to justify the action did not exist.

The Florida Supreme Court declared such activity a violation of the Fourth Amendment as it should have. Miami-Dade wants the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the decision and has asked the Court to intervene. Stay tuned.

While the courts of various jurisdictions do support the use of drug detector dogs for various applications, the circumstances depend on the situation and use.

From personal experience, I can tell you that a good drug detector dog controlled by an experienced handler can provide proof of the existence of narcotics which is hard to overcome. That being said, good dogs with good, unbiased handlers are hard to come by. Many times handlers clearly “cheat” by directing the dog to halt or respond to a phantom “hit” and describe it as “the dog showed interest”.

Drug detector dogs come in two varieties; active and passive. If an “active” dog alerts, you can expect to purchase a new paint job on a car or new upholstery on a sofa. A “passive” dog does just the opposite – it immediately drops to the ground upon positive identification as if paralyzed.

Back to Franky.

While there is a problem with the manner in what his handlers directed him to do, the biggest issue is that you can bet that there is no video to chronicle the manner in which he allegedly “alerted” to marijuana. If police are going to parade him outside a home, in violation of the Constitution, can you trust them to record how he responded? Didn’t think so.

Maybe Franky ain’t so special after all.

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