Florida defendant Clayton Harris sought to suppress evidence found in his truck consisting of ingredients used to make methamphetamine. An officer conducted the search after an alert by Aldo, a drug-sniffing German shepherd. On appeal from the trial court, “the Florida Supreme Court held that the State must in every case present an exhaustive set of records, including a copy of the dog’s performance in the field, to establish the dog’s reliability.”
The U. S. Supreme Court recently reversed that decision. In a unanimous opinion, Florida v Harris, 568 U S ___(2013), the Court said a dog’s reliability can be shown with evidence that the dog has completed a certification or training program when there is no evidence to the contrary.
Justice Kagan wrote for the Court, “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... Because training and testing records supported Aldo’s reliability in detecting drugs and Harris failed to undermine that evidence, Wheetley had probable cause to search Harris’s truck.”
For other cases and materials regarding drug dogs, please visit our Law About Drug Detection Dogs page.