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Once again, our Supreme Court is shamed by another country

Regular readers have heard me rail against Caballes v. Illinois, the truly awful Supreme Court decision that allowed searches based only on the whim of a dog, thereby encouraging fishing expeditions.

Well, the Supreme Court of Canada Saskatchewan Court of Appeal just ruled on a similar case. Seven members of the Court sat on the case and all agreed that the case should be thrown out. Since the officer had no reasonable suspicion that the car contained drugs, calling in a dog to sniff was unacceptable.

In one of the separate, yet essentially concurring decisions upholding the Queen’s Bench decision, Chief Justice John Klebuc and justices Gary Lane, Robert Richards, Gene Anne Smith and Ysanne Wilkinson said Yeh’s rights were violated by the sniffer dog search “and the trial judge made no error in excluding the evidence obtained as a result of that breach.” Justices Georgina Jackson and Darla Hunter concurred with that finding in their decision. […]

Meanwhile, Jackson — writing also on Hunter’s behalf — said “there is a good reason to limit dog searches when a person is detained.”

Jackson said police powers shouldn’t be expanded to allow the use of dogs in searches in instances where police officers themselves couldn’t by law perform a search.

“Police conduct must be considered objectively from the perspective of the ordinary travelling public, as well as from the perspective of crime prevention,” Jackson wrote. “If the police can use a sniffer dog when a person is detained in the circumstances such as the case at bar, the traffic stop runs the risk of becoming a pretext for a search for drugs.”

See that last sentence? “…the traffic stop runs the risk of becoming a pretext for a search for drugs.”

Exactly the place we’re at in the United States. We even have officers who brag that it’s the only reason they do traffic stops.

The Supreme Court Justices of Canda Saskatchewan Court of Appeal Justices understand this. Why is it so difficult for our Supreme Court?

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12 comments to Once again, our Supreme Court is shamed by another country

  • “the traffic stop runs the risk of becoming a pretext for a search for drugs.”

    That’s exactly the reason why the SCOTUS allowed it in Caballes. If it were a bomb-sniffing dog at issue, then Caballes would have turned out differently, as it wouldn’t have relied upon the Drug Exception to the US Constitution. Apparently Canada doesn’t have a drug exception to their Constitution. Good for them.

    You can’t have meaningful rights of privacy and have a law that prohibits people from having certain leaves and pills in their pockets. It’s simply impossible, the two are fundamentally incompatible. America, due to irrational fear, has decided the prohibitions of leaves and pills should trump our rights to privacy. “After all if you’re not doing anything wrong then you have nothing to worry about.”

    The first rule of politics is that people get the governments which they deserve. It only takes watching the news for half an hour on any given day to realize that Canadians deserve a much better government than Americans – and that’s precisely what they have. They are calmer, more rational, more reasonable people. Good for them. Their government reflects their nature.

    America won’t be around for too much longer. Most people think America is “too big to fail” but it’s most certainly not.

  • Cannabis

    Instead of “searches based only on the whim of a dog” it’s really more like “searches based only on the whim of a dog’s handler.” It’s easy to train a dog to alert when you want them to alert.

  • R.O.E.

    Papers and identification please… thats what it amounts to. Sound familiar?

  • claygooding

    Any trained dog will give his sign of a drug find when his trainer signals him too,so the law can find probable cause too search anyone he stops. And if a dog gives the sign,does he signal that the drug he has found is cocaine,meth or marijuana. Or is a dog exempt from putting on the search warrant exactly what the subject is being searched for?
    Over 1/2 the dog searches done now show false signals,and have caused many people too be detained and have their cars and homes destroyed,looking for and not finding drugs.
    But this is not about accuracy or expertise of the dog,it is about the freedom from search that our constitution used to say was illegal and is now such a large gray area that no one understands what is legal,and what is not.

  • Yoink

    You should check your facts. That was the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal, not the Supreme Court of Canada.

  • paul

    Our Supreme Court failed the American people over the drug war, and can no longer be trusted to uphold the constitution. In a way it was understandable. Some rights and interpretations had been eroding under pressure from the growing federal government for decades, and the sheer weight of public opinion about drugs shoved them over the edge.

    These days, the Supreme court doesn’t seem to think the constitution guarantees much at all. There was a victory regarding gun rights recently, but that is about it.

    They use a lot of jargon and convoluted arguments to enhance their authority and scholarly image, but if you look past all the nonsense, the plain language of the constitution is ignored and violated constantly.

    The commerce clause is probably the most significant failure. This is the part of the constitution where it lays out the federal government’s role as regulating commerce between the states, but not WITHIN states. Years ago, the supreme court gave in and allowed the federal government to regulate what crops farmers could grow that were destined to be sold locally because the crops would affect local prices, which would then affect interstate prices.

    This absurd argument marked the moment the camel got its nose in the tent. Congress uses the commerce clause as the basis for any regulations it really ought not to have the power to pass, and it was also the basis of the awful Raiche MJ decision a couple of years ago.

    Indeed, is there any aspect of life in or out of the states congress does not now have the power to regulate?

    The protection against search and seizure has been eroded to the point where it is meaningless. The legal nibbles have finally eaten it all up, and taken as a whole they violate the plain language of the amendment and would have horrified the founders. The founders despised what they called “papers searches” and very much hated to be harassed by petty officials. Now such searches are routine, and we have “sneak and peek” searches, secret demands for bank records, and routine vehicle drug searches masquerading as traffic stops.

    Due process is still mostly intact, but the camel’s nose is getting under that tent with Guantanamo. Double jeopardy is routinely violated by being charged both in state and federal court for the same act, or when new, slightly different, charges are leveled after the original ones failed. Eminent domain recently died a sorrowful death, permitting cities to take your property and sell it to their favorite local developer. So much for the fifth amendment.

    Excessive bail is common and very lengthy sentences violate the “cruel” prohibition of the eight amendment, but sadly no longer the “unusual” part.

    To me, the supreme court has lost all credibility. I know their rules remain the law of the land until they arbitrarily change their minds, but their reasoning is no longer worth listening to.

    Every time they find a way to justify a new police power, like warrantless wiretapping (Remember: “no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause…”)I just sigh and think to myself, “Whatever you say, guys.” They may be smarter than me, and they certainly are more powerful than everyone else, but ordinary people can read the constitution, too. And what I and everyone else can plainly see is that they have violated and failed their oaths to uphold the constitution in just about every important way. Their pronoucements are worthless and their judgments are hollow.

    The emperor has no clothes.

  • Thanks, Yoink. My mistake. Post corrected.

  • paul: it started back in the late 1930’s with FDR and the New Deal. Most of those federal programs were blatantly unconstitutional, but with the depression and desperation abound, people just didn’t care. It reached the point where FDR threatened to pack the Supreme Court with more judges who would uphold his programs. Then the other judges already on the court changed their mind – and their constitutional jurisprudence. Suddenly everything the government wanted to do was constitutional. “The switch in time that saved nine.” Once we started to violate the constitution (the commerce clause) to allow the government to do whatever it wanted to do, then it was an easy next step to violate the constitution when those (already unconstitutional commerce clause-based programs) infringed the individual rights of the American people. And that’s what’s happened.

  • paul

    The switch in time to save nine, eh? I never knew where that came from.

  • Paul: Yep, “the switch” was the SCOTUS caving in to FDR’s demand that any law that he and Congress wanted to pass was constitutional under the Commerce Clause, because everything and anything the government does is ipso facto “interstate commerce.” Only a few years later we got Wickard v. Filburn where the government was permitted to tell a farmer how much wheat he could grow on his own land for his family’s own personal use. It was all downhill from there, cumulating with Raich v. Gonzales which held that even intrastate non-commerce is “interstate commerce” for purposes of federal regulation.

    This is why I hate FDR and get pissed off when people say he was one of the greatest presidents. He most certainly was not, and the destruction of the Constitution is directly traceable to him and his faulty and dangerous “the Constitution should not get in the way of me trying to help the American people” line of reasoning.

  • DdC

    Same old BS Different Fascism…

    Unequal distribution of wealth and income.
    Despite rising wages overall, income distribution was unequal. Unequal wealth Gaps in income had actually increased since the 1890s. The 1% of the population at the very top of the pyramid had incomes 650% greater than those 11% of Americans at the bottom of the pyramid. The tremendous concentration of wealth in the hands of a few meant that continued economic prosperity was dependent on the high investment and luxury spending of the wealthy. However, both the high spending and high investment of the time, much like today, were susceptible to economic fluctuations; they were much less stable than people’s expenses on daily necessities like food, clothing, and shelter. Therefore, when the market crashed and the economy tumbled, both big spending and big investment collapsed, as well.

    How convenient you leave out the fact the corporations and fascists put us in a position to need social security and the New Deal. Same teabog ditty horshit. FDR did what he had to do to save the people. Not their corporate profits. When corporations were made citizens that was the end of America. Same corporations siding with Hitler and the Fascists, and the same pushing cannabis prohibition. Damn idiots always blaming the band aids and never the lacerations causing them. Same with the Ganjawar, corporate lobbying caused the political war. For corporate profits and prison industry. Not the dangers of pot. Now blame the sick Americans without insurance for the CEO’s $100.000.00 an hour salary driving costs up. Pitifuckingfools! Think the trillion spent on Iraq went to commies? No, corporations supplying paraphernalia to the Military. Teabog Ditties… Pitifuckingfools!

    The Corporate Muzzle

    “”I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. . . . corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.””
    — U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, Nov. 21, 1864
    (letter to Col. William F. Elkins)
    Ref: The Lincoln Encyclopedia, Archer H. Shaw (Macmillan, 1950, NY)

  • Servetus

    The U.S. Supreme Court’s fetish for canine drug searches is another example of the Court maintaining that the ends justifies the means—even when the means doesn’t work all that well.