Dogs and other Fourth Amendment abuses

Radley Balko has an excellent article at the Huffington Post: Illinois Traffic Stop Of Star Trek Fans Raises Concerns About Drug Searches, Police Dogs, Bad Cops

The whole thing is a must-read and it explores all the issues in the title very well, through the lens of one particular traffic stop.

Radley spends a fair time in the piece talking about the disaster of allowing drug dog alerts to be the basis for a search, and even has a side-bar following the success rate of one particular dog.

As regular readers know, I think that the Supreme Court decision in Caballes v. Illinois was one of the worst decisions the court has made in recent years.

The Supreme Court will shortly have an opportunity to re-visit Caballes. They’ve agreed to hear arguments in the case of Florida v. Harris, where the Florida Supreme Court ruled that it wasn’t enough to say that a drug dog was certified, there had to be some ongoing proof of its abilities.

I’m not sure if the Supremes are accepting the case because they want a crack at fixing Caballes, or because they want to overrule the Florida Supreme Court. At least there will be another discussion and now Justice Stevens (who authored the Caballes decision) is gone.

Basically, the Florida Supremes said that there should be some kind of standard of reliability if drug dogs are going to be the reason for a search.

The government’s position is that as long as the dog receives some kind of certification of training (with no particular standard for that training or certification required), then that’s all that’s needed. And they say there should be no need to track field accuracy. They simply claim that any time a dog gives a false positive in the field it’s because there used to be drugs in that car (impossible to prove one way or the other). And, of course, false negatives are never known.

It’s a convenient position – no accountability whatsoever.

We’ll see if the Supremes are willing to listen to facts and logic, and whether the volumes of new evidence that has surfaced since Caballes makes a difference.

Scott Henson at Grits for Breakfast has a good piece about the Florida v. Harris opinion.

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33 Responses to Dogs and other Fourth Amendment abuses

  1. divadab says:

    Don’t hold your breath expecting justice from a Supreme Court as beholden to corporatist money and ideology as the rest of the utterly corrupt federal government. This is a terrible situation – the federal government by its own disreputable actions has made itself contemptible to its citizens and must increasingly maintain power through lies and unjust dominion.

    Prohibition and its necessary repressive police and prison infrastructure are a symptom of the evil that has taken over OUR government. Where are the sensible people? What has happened to the bourgeoisie that built this nation that has been taken over by monopolists?

    I want to respect my government. I don’t want the system to collapse. But these greedy corrupt dominionist idiots, disrespecters of our supreme law, The Constitution, apparently don’t care if the system collapses as long as their and their sponsors’ pockets are lined and safely offshored.

    It’s disgraceful.

  2. allan says:


    … and not sure of the genuineness of this with today being what it is, but worth a watch: Drug Lord Thanks Obama, Both Bushes, And Reagan For War On Drugs: “I Owe My Whole Empire To You”

  3. darkcycle says:

    I don’t expect the police state to give up their four legged fourth amendment avoidance tools. The Gestapo loved their dogs, too.

  4. Duncan20903 says:


    That dogs alert when they encounter a place where contraband was previously but is not now is not proof that the dogs are good at their jobs but the opposite, proof that they’re not able to differentiate a “crime” in progress and a “crime” that is over and done with. When I fly to a city on business, why in the heck should I have to suffer being searched because the guy that had my rental vehicle the day before me used it to deliver contraband?

    • Peter says:

      It’s even worse in some gulf states like dubai….the detection of nanograms of illicit drugs, whether in urine or on the sole of your shoes is likely to result in minimum sentences running into years

      • Duncan20903 says:

        The citizens of Dubai don’t have an expectation of personal freedom granted them as their birthright.

        • Matthew Meyer says:

          Our freedom is not granted, it’s innate. We allow the state to curtail certain of our freedoms by giving it our consent to govern. Otherwise what the state giveth the state may taketh away.

  5. Servetus says:

    The thing about police corruption is that somewhere, sometime, somehow, the bad cop is eventually going to mess with the wrong person or people.

    Pulling lame tricks that violate the civil rights of a cinematographer going to a Star Trek convention is simply begging for trouble. Officer Michael Reichert went where no man has gone before—assailing Trekkies. Now he’s a poster boy for sniffer-dog legal reforms.

    It can never be immediately obvious how talented, knowledgeable and resourceful the intended drug war victim may be. Officer Reichert gambled. He lost. He underestimated his quarry and the laws of probability.

  6. Francis says:

    The use of a drug dog can’t provide the grounds for a search, because the use of a drug dog IS a search. It’s a coerced, unsettling, and frequently time-consuming encounter with police who are attempting to find something with which to incriminate you. And yes, I know that the Supreme Court has said otherwise. But if you made a Venn diagram with two circles, one representing “what the Constitution says” and the other representing “what the Supreme Court says the Constitution says,” you’d find that the two are most definitely not coincident. At this point in time, I’m not sure they’d even overlap.

  7. Peter says:

    Officer Reichert is a buffoon…. listen to him at about 5:45, he says he’s “a little bit COMPREHENSIVE about your buddy.”
    I guess if he’d found a bit of “personal supply,” which he “wasn’t too concerned about,” he’d have taken the car as forfeit. The man’s a crook and the police union, which fought to have him reinstated, has become an integral part of the criminal enterprise known as the WOSD.

    • darkcycle says:

      Oh yes, with Police Unions protecting corrupt cops, and Narcotics officer’s associations lobbying against drug law reforms, and prison corporations lobbying against sentencing reforms…shit. These entities are parasitic in the worst way. They have no incentives whatsoever to “protect and serve” anybody but themselves. (Thank you to the person who put “protect and serve…themselves” out there)

  8. Duncan20903 says:

    Speaking of gratuitously insulting prohibitionists, LEAP member Steven Downing bitchslaps Paul Chabot. Mr. Downing has great talent in issuing such insults. Rubber duck? ROFLMAO!

    <a href="'s DUI laws all-inclusive

    Stephen Downing
    Posted: 04/01/2012 07:03:44 AM PDT

    Paul Chabot’s tortured guest commentary about why Assemblywoman Norma Torres’s zero-tolerance THC driving-under-the-influence bill (AB 2552) is good legislation is typical Chabot.

    Give this guy a rubber duck and he will seize it by the neck like the butt of a pistol and shout “bang” every time.

    Paul Chabot clings to the status quo of our failed U.S. drug policy, a war on the people in which he played a major role – just as I did. The difference between us is that I can admit that I took part in enforcing a failed policy that has brought, and continues to bring, immeasurable harm to our society; while he sees nothing of the sort and continues to profit from his advocacy to indemnify the continuation of this horribly misguided and destructive war on the people.
    Stephen Downing is a retired deputy chief of police with the Los Angeles Police Department and a board member of LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition).

  9. Jeff Trigg says:

    This was a great find from Radley Balko. He is one of my heros.

    I got in a shot at a prohibitionist this week. Rich Miller, a known Illinois journalist, political insider and blogger, had a caption contest this week for a picture of Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who is responsible for Caballes v. Illinois, and I came up with a decent one liner. Here’s the post and picture of Lisa Madigan.

    My one-liner in comments was; “Don’t worry, these drug dogs I brought with me aren’t actually searching anything.”

    That won the caption contest. From his website. I’m pretty sure she read that. She knows we haven’t forgot and that we don’t approve and think its a joke. That brought me a smile and I just hope to share it.

    It will be interesting to see how Obama’s appointments rule on the FL case. Obama is a huge friend and supporter of Lisa Madigan and her 42-year serving father Michael Madigan who is a decades long Speaker of the IL House and Chair of the Illinois Democrats party. For this case, too bad Souter is gone.

    divadab has it right that both Republican and Democrat Supreme Court Justices have been perverting our Constitution in their, and their co-horts, favor for at least 100 years now. Corporations have played a big part in that, but don’t forget that government unions have played just as big of a corrupting part also. In my mind, the buck ultimately stops with the Republicans and Democrats.

    As for drug dogs, we should get rid of them entirely. What is the sole purpose of a drug dog? To find drugs, right? How does a dog find drugs? They supposedly search for drugs by smelling them with better noses than humans. That is a search, unless they are saying that dogs are also human officers of the government.

    One stat from Radley Balko’s article I will start using is this one:

    “In 2011, the Chicago Tribune published a review of drug dog searches conducted over three years by police departments in the Chicago suburbs. The paper found that just 44 percent of dog “alerts” led to the discovery of actual contraband. Interestingly, for Hispanic drivers the success rate dipped to 27 percent, again supporting the theory that drug dogs tend to confirm the suspicions (and, consequently, the biases) of their handlers.”

    For those in Illinois, more on the drug war from Ben Joravsky of the Chicago Reader along with Mick Dumke

    Toni Preckwinkle, Ken Davis, and I talk marijuana 

    The grass gap
    People all over Chicago smoke pot—but almost everyone busted for it is black

    The street value of the pot found on the convicted offenders, according to our sample of case files, was anywhere from $2 to $170. The average was $55.

    The politics of pot
    Are our politicians too paranoid to decriminalize marijuana?

    To political insiders, though, another story was developing: Mayor Emanuel had sent Solis to take control—bogart, if you will—not just Fritchey’s press conference but the whole discussion of marijuana policy.

    Barack Obama’s right hand man, Rahm Emanuel, now Mayor of Chicago, is a drug warring prohibitionist who is shutting down all decriminalization talk from Cook County politicians and holding press conferences touting his harder stance on the drug war. How the fuck can any Democrat voter sleep at night?

    I’m blogging in Illinois again and we’ll see what else I can do for the cause of our freedom to live and let live.

  10. Meanwhile says:

    Tings is going bottom-up in the land down under:

    FOREIGN Minister Bob Carr has joined a group of prominent Australians, including former federal police chief Mick Palmer, in a campaign to overturn the ‘‘war on drugs’’ policies promoted by former prime minister John Howard.

    The campaign will be launched today with a report declaring: ‘‘The war on drugs has failed … The prohibition of illicit drugs is killing and criminalising our children and we are letting it happen.’’

  11. Servetus says:

    OT. Federal U.S. Marshalls are at this moment raiding Richard Lee’s Blue Sky Medical Cannabis dispensary in downtown Oakland, located at the former headquarters of Oaksterdam University.

    The dispensary had been relocated several times prior to this morning’s raid due to threatening letters sent by Feds regarding the properties.

    Richard Lee, as most know, bankrolled California’s Prop 19 in the 2010 election.

    • Duncan20903 says:


      It may have more to do with the fact that the City of Oakland recently authorized doubling the number of dispensaries. Did Blue Sky move from the 300 block of 17th Street? Because several weeks ago I read that they were at risk because of only being a block away from a school and that pissed me off in the extreme. It pissed me off because that particular school had opened in 2006 which was a couple of years after Mr. Lee started his dog and pony show.

      I’ve got no doubt that Steve DiAngelo and Harborside are next on the agenda. It’s unfortunate but vocal cannabis law reform advocates may as well walk around with a target painted on the back of their heads. Throw in mentions of significant revenue and you may as well drive over to the Federal prison and surrender.

      It’s sad…the very limited selection made them my favorite dispensary back when I was in Oakland. All the other places with 1,074 strains, 614 different varieties of medibles, etc etc etc sent my brain into a never ending feedback loop causing it to lock up. How the heck can I choose what I want when I want it all?

      I must say I’m on pins and needles waiting to see what happens in the District. Warning letters from the local U.S. Attorney to the D.C. Council have been quite conspicuous in their absence. Montel did get at least one license.

      Regardless of all that I find it stunning that people are still willing to open a shop. I know most people just don’t understand the concept and application of dual sovereignty but I think by now people would have grokked that it it isn’t legal because State (District) law is modified.

      I’m hoping that the stepped up Federal prosecution of medicinal cannabis retail distribution chain players will backfire and a lot of people will say enough is enough. Christ on a crutch though, Barry must actively want absolutely no votes from our cohort. The man had me debating with myself whether or not I could vote for Mr. Santorum or Mr. Romney. BTW the answers were no way and no fucking way respectively, but the fact that I even evaluated the possibility is remarkable.

      • Servetus says:

        The Blue Sky dispensary moved from 17th Street to the corner of 19th and Broadway a few months ago. Oaksterdam University moved its offices from the 19th and Broadway location to a storefront location on Broadway a block south.

        The cops are still barricading the University offices, and they’re going after every store front operation that Richard Lee owns in the area, including a cannabis gift shop that sells nothing but hemp products, t-shirts, Oaksterdam souvenirs, etc., but no marijuana.

  12. darkcycle says:

    Apparently a big Oaksterdam DEA raid in progress now…
    …blue sky not the only shop being hit I’m told.

  13. claygooding says:

    They are really spending the bucks now,,no wonder ONDCP asked for 9 billion more dollars this year.

  14. Meanwhile says:

    Officers wearing U.S. Marshals, IRS and DEA jackets swarmed the Oakland medical marijuana facility on Broadway before 8 a.m. Investigators put yellow crime tape around the entire building.

    • Duncan20903 says:


      Oaksterdam University?!? Jesus christ what is wrong with these people?

      Seriously, this is war.

  15. Peter says:

    this must be what chabot was referring to when he mentioned ” exploding domestic cartels” hence the irs involvent. if you cant get em one way

    • Duncan20903 says:


      Section 280E Harborside was recently audited. They’ve been beating up California vendors with the IRS for about a year now. I am on record in Pete’s archives predicting that every dispensary in the Country would be shut down by Election Day, and most of them voluntarily. I was certainly mistaken in my prediction that it would be the IRS exclusively using section 280E that did the deed. Why just shoot them when you can shoot, stab, poison, asphyxiate and stone them? Silly me.

      I’m not pleased or proud that it looks like my prediction of the result will come to pass. But I am amused that Mr. Obama isn’t winning any support from the authoritarians. All that the crackdown did was make them make fun of the freedom fighters because we believed Barry in 2008. The possibility of supporting Mr. Obama never once crossed their collective mind.

      • darkcycle says:

        You are right, I think it’s as much clearing the field for GW Pharma as anything else. They want that MMJ monopoly AND they want to continue to criminalize, too. Best of all possible worlds, if you’re a Sabet.

  16. claygooding says:

    Please,,,gather at your local courthouse/state capitol/DC on 420,,,go clean and go loud!

    Party at my house afterwards.

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