CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Owsley on the dog sniff cases

Brian Owsley (Texas Tech University School of Law) has posted The Supreme Court Goes to the Dogs: Reconciling Florida v. Harris and Florida v. Jardines (Albany Law Review, Vol. 77, 2013) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

In the most recent Term, the United States Supreme Court has issued rulings affecting criminal investigations and Fourth Amendment rights in two cases involving the use of drug-detection dogs: Florida v. Harris and Florida v. Jardines. These otherwise unrelated appeals from the Supreme Court of Florida both address overlapping issues concerning the use of such dogs by police officers. Although the United States Supreme Court has previously addressed a criminal defendant’s rights in cases involving drug-detection dogs, these two decisions will significantly influence such jurisprudence going forward. 

It has long been accepted “that dogs have the ability to detect the smallest traces of odors and to perceive these scents much better than human beings.” Indeed, dogs have been used for their ability to detect scents for over 200 years. This article provides a brief description of the development of the Fourth Amendment jurisprudence regarding sniff tests by drug-detection dogs in Part I. Specifically, it discusses United States v. Place, City of Indianapolis v. Edmond, and Illinois v. Caballes, which were the three leading Supreme Court decisions on these issues prior to the most recently concluded Term. Taken as a whole these three decisions establish that just a sniff by a drug detection dog does not violate the Fourth Amendment. In Part II, the factual and procedural background of Harris as well as its legal analysis is discussed. Next, Part III provides a similar background and analysis for Jardines. Part IV analyzes the differences between Jardines and Harris. This discussion reconciles their differences by finding not only consistency with existing Supreme Court jurisprudence, but also wisdom in both decisions. In Part V, the importance of the reconciliation and the applicability of Harris and Jardines are discussed in the context of cases faced in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas. In particular, this section focuses on a month of drug smuggling cases and examines how drug dogs are imperative to the interdiction.

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