The Supreme Court ruled today 6-2 (Illinois v. Caballes) that the 4th Amendment is not violated when police use drug sniffing dogs during a routine traffic stop even when there’s no reason to believe that drug laws have been broken.
A dog sniff conducted during a concededly lawful traffic stop that reveals no information other than the location of a substance that no individual has any right to possess does not violate the Fourth Amendment.”
… and with that he puts his seal of approval on police fishing expeditions.
Justices Ginsberg and Souter dissented (Rehnquist did not participate in the case.)
This ruling is likely to result in a massive increase in the use of drug-sniffing dogs, both in traffic stops and even other situations such as patrolling through parking lots, walking down streets, etc. This, despite the fact that drug-sniffing dogs have a notoriously high false-positive record (look for an increase in the investigation of drug dog records in court cases).
This also makes it practically illegal to carry large amounts of cash for any reason. Since most cash in the U.S. has some drug residue on it, drug dogs can alert to cash in your possession as well. You might get it back if you can provide enough documentation.
This is just one more reminder that we cannot depend on the Supreme Court — they are notorious for rolling over when it comes to anything that the drug warriors want. We will have to motivate the people to reject the drug war finally loudly enough that legislators will have no choice but to listen.
Note: The Supremes did not YET rule whether dogs could be used this way around houses, and I don’t know whether it would be allowed to, say, bring a dog down the aisle of a bus.
A reminder how it used to look…
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
BTW, since Lisa Madigan won this one, I may have to get a dog so I can follow through with my earlier comment:
Thanks, Lisa. So you wouldn’t mind, then, if I brought my dog up to you and had it sniff your crotch in public? After all, it’s not a search, so why should anyone mind?