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Fourth Amendment

Dog Day in Supreme Court

The Supreme Court of the United States will hear arguments to determine whether drug sniffing dogs are an infringement on fourth amendment rights today. At stake is whether warrantless use of drug sniffing dogs are a violation of the fourth amendment of the United States constitution regarding unreasonable search and seizure.

Part of the debate will confront a ruling from a 2005 case where Judge Steven’s stated that a dogs nose does not violate human privacy so long as “no information other than the location of a substance that no individual has any right to possess.” The problem is that drug sniffing dogs are not 100% accurate and one study has even found that only 44% of the time drug dogs accurately find drug paraphernalia.

What do you think about drug dogs and privacy?

Drug-Sniffing Dogs at Your Front Door? Florida SC says it IS a Search.

Drug-Sniffing Dogs at Your Front Door? Florida SC says it IS a Search.

Picture of Drug Police DogThe Florida State Attorney General asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a Florida Supreme Court case holding that police officers are required to have probable cause to use a drug dog to sniff outside your door. This case arose out of an investigation of a Miami house, where police were tipped off that the owner was growing marijuana. Surveillance and traditional investigation did not reveal anything, however the police then used drug sniffing dogs on the front porch which alerted them to the presence of marijuana emanating from the inside of the home. The Attorney General is arguing that the Florida decision is inconsistent with the Court’s jurisprudence in Illinois v. Caballes, holding that a dog sniff of a persons’ car was not a search within the 4th Amendment.

What does this all mean for you?

Well, as of right now, if police officers want to use a drug dog in their investigation of you, they don’t have to have probable cause that you have committed a crime. However, if the Supreme Court grants certiorari, here are the options (in an overly simplified form):

  1. Worst Case Scenario: The Supreme Court could reverse the Florida Supreme Court, and affirm Illinois v. Caballes, and state that police officer’s don’t need probable cause to use a drug sniffing dog on your front door, because you don’t have a reasonable expectation of privacy, and therefore there is not a search.
  2. Best Case Scenario: The Supreme Court could affirm the Florida Supreme Court, and could reverse their own decision in Illinois v. Caballes, and hold that drug sniffs by dogs do implicate the 4th Amendment, and require probable cause.
  3. Acceptable Scenario: Supreme Court could affirm Florida Supreme Court, and limit their holding to drug sniffs of the home require probable cause, or alternatively, refuse to hear the case at all.

Obviously, drug sniffing dogs have better senses of smell than humans; thus, they are a very powerful tool in police investigations. They can be used to alert the police to the presence of drugs in places that the police would not be able to enter without getting a search warrant. The drug dogs alert to their handler of the presence of drugs can also serve as a basis for these search warrants. It seems preposterous and counter-intuitive that police dogs are constitutionally allowed to be able to search somewhere or something that police officers cannot without a warrant. Hopefully someday soon, the Supreme Court will recognize that these dogs are a “search” within meaning of the 4th Amendment no matter where and when they are used.

Things to do (and NOT to do) in a Police Encounter

Things to do (and NOT to do) in a Police Encounter

Picture of a Police Man

Image Credit to greenmelinda

Many times people wonder what they are required by law to do when they are approached by a police officer. Here is a great post with three things every person should be aware of when dealing with police. At the Law Offices of David Michael Cantor, we think the most important thing you should know is that you always have the right to have an attorney present when you are being questioned by police officers. If an officer asks you to come down to the station to answer some questions, always ask them if you are being placed under arrest. If you are not, you are not required by law to go with the officers, and you SHOULD NOT GO with the officers, even if you are completely innocent.

The biggest mistake people make is to assume that since they are not guilty of any wrongdoing, that there is no harm in talking with police. In a perfect world, that would be a great assumption. However, in the real world, that is just not true. Literally, anything that you say can be used against you, in reference to this crime or to another crime. Your words, however innocent they may appear to you, can be twisted into a manner that you did not intend. If you are being questioned, always ask for an attorney and call us immediately. As the old cliché goes, it is much better to be safe than sorry.

To Tase or not to Tase, Still Uncertain

Police officers often use tasers to, in the words of an officer, “subdue an aggressive suspect” or to “protect the officer’s safety.” However, there are many situations where members of the general public find the use of the stun gun unjustified, and a result of the officer’s “power-trip” or laziness. As more and more officers are equipped with tasers, there are rising numbers of “excessive force” claims occurring against police officers. Recently, the Ninth Circuit (which embraces Arizona) held in Brooks v. Seattle and Mattos v. Agarano that the use of tasers to subdue suspects was excessive. In Brooks, the suspect was tased because she refused to get out of her car after being arrested for refusing to sing her speeding ticket. In Mattos, the suspect was tased because she stood between her husband and an officer who was trying to arrest him for domestic violence. However, it is still unclear when and where the tasing of suspects will be appropriate. To see if your tasing might be a violation of your 4th Amendment rights, contact us.

Arrest: You Have the Right to Remain Silent, but Not to Keep your Clothes On

The US Supreme Court recently heard arguments in Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders of the County of Burlington, which presents the issue of whether the government can strip search any person admitted to jail, or whether there must be some reason to believe the strip search is necessary to revel hidden items.
Many times, people are brought to jail to be booked for minor offenses, or to sleep off alcohol, then released later on because they are not deemed dangerous enough to be held. How would you feel if as part of that process you were required to get naked in front of a police officer and have your body cavities inspected, to prove no hidden contraband?
In this case, a man was arrested and brought to jail on an outstanding warrant for a violation of a civil contempt order (in another cruel twist of fate, it turns out that he actually had paid his fine). At the jail, he was forced to do a strip search and visual body cavity search. The officers had no reason to believe that he was hiding any sort of weapons or contraband in his body. The Court will determine if these “squat and cough” suspicionless searches are a violation of our 4th Amendment. I sure hope the Court finds in favor of this poor man because I don’t want to be taken to the station and next thing I know I am forced to perform my own rendition of Demi Moore in Striptease.

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