Pubdate: Mon, 24 Jan 2005
Source: Baltimore Sun (MD)
Copyright: 2005 The Baltimore Sun, a Times Mirror Newspaper.
Author: Hope Yen, Associated Press


Supreme Court Allows Use of Drug-Sniffing Dogs Without Suspicion Of

WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court gave police broader search powers
today during traffic stops, ruling that drug-sniffing dogs can be used
to check out motorists even if officers have no reason to suspect they
may be carrying narcotics.

In a 6-2 decision, the court sided with Illinois police who stopped
Roy Caballes in 1998 along Interstate 80 for driving six miles over
the speed limit. Although Caballes lawfully produced his driver's
license, troopers brought over a drug dog after Caballes seemed nervous.

Caballes argued the Fourth Amendment protects motorists from searches
such as dog sniffing, but Justice John Paul Stevens disagreed,
reasoning that the privacy intrusion was minimal.

"The dog sniff was performed on the exterior of respondent's car while
he was lawfully seized for a traffic violation. Any intrusion on
respondent's privacy expectations does not rise to the level of a
constitutionally cognizable infringement," Stevens wrote.

In a dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg bemoaned what she called the
broadening of police search powers, saying the use of drug dogs will
make routine traffic stops more "adversarial." She was joined in her
dissent in part by Justice David H. Souter.

"Injecting such animal into a routine traffic stop changes the
character of the encounter between the police and the motorist. The
stop becomes broader, more adversarial and [in at least some cases]
longer," she wrote.

Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist did not participate in
consideration of the case.

The case is another in a line of Supreme Court cases involving the
Constitution's ban on unreasonable searches or seizures.

But civil liberties advocates have argued that allowing greater police
powers in this case would be more troubling. That's because police
often use traffic stops as a pretext to question motorists about
suspected illegal activity for which they have no proof.

In Caballes' case, he was pulled over for driving 71 mph on a stretch
of Interstate 80 with a 65 mph limit. The state trooper noticed air
freshener in the car and asked for permission to search Caballes'
trunk. Caballes refused, but officers searched it later anyway after
the dog indicated there were drugs in the trunk.

The troopers subsequently found $250,000 worth of marijuana, a find
that Caballes argued was unjustified because they had no reason to
suspect he had drugs. His conviction was later thrown out by the
Illinois Supreme Court, a ruling that the U.S. Supreme Court reversed.

The case is Illinois v. Caballes, 03-923.

On the Net:

The court's opinion in Illinois v. Caballes is available
- ---
MAP posted-by: SHeath(DPFFLorida)