Pubdate: Mon, 24 Jan 2005
Source: Arizona Republic (AZ)
Copyright: 2005 The Arizona Republic
Author: Senta Scarborough


Arizona law enforcement agencies hailed a U.S Supreme Court ruling Monday 
allowing the use of drug sniffing dogs during a traffic stop even if their 
is no reason to suspect narcotics.

Officers say the ruling supports a tool they already use to combat illegal 
drug trafficking.

Criminal defense attorneys say the ruling provides too much power for 
police and further erodes Fourth Amendment rights barring unreasonable 
searches and seizures.

"We are happy the decision came out the way it did because we have a major 
drug problem in our society and most drugs are transported in vehicles and 
hidden in vehicles," Mesa police detective Bryan Soller, the state 
president of the Arizona Fraternal Order of Police. "The key is it has to 
be a legal traffic stop and we don't detain the person longer than the 
traffic stop. You are not going to see a major change in the way police 
work is done."

Phoenix civil rights attorney Joe Zebas said the ruling removes the 
officers' need for probable cause for a dog sniffing search and infringes 
on a person's right to privacy and right from an unreasonable search.

"It can lead to future rights being eliminated or being reduced and more 
expansive searches," Zebas said. "I'm scared of it. It potentially leads to 
a slippery slope."

The 6-2 ruling allows officers to call a police dog to a legal traffic stop 
to conduct a sweep of the car as long as it occurs within the same amount 
of time as a routine traffic stop, estimated between 10 to 30 minutes.

Phoenix police Lt. Vince Piano, who oversees the investigative unit of the 
agency's drug enforcement bureau, said his agency pulls over far too many 
people to have the decision make a real difference. He says the dogs would 
only be used if there was real suspicion.

The Supreme Court sided with the Illinois State Trooper Daniel Gillette, 
who stopped Roy Caballes in 1998 for driving 6 miles over the speed limit. 
Caballes lawfully produced his driver's license, but troopers brought over 
a drug dog when Caballes appeared 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," Stevens wrote.

In a dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said 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.

Arizona Department of Public Safety Lt. Mike Corbin, who oversees the 
department's canine unit, said DPS rarely used sniff dogs during routine 
traffic stops.

'It (Monday's decision) just gives us more credibility of what we are doing 
and backs us up" Corbin said. "We don't run our dogs on vehicles unless we 
have a reason to do so. Doing indiscriminate searches would use up a whole 
lot of time on a lot of cars we don't need to search."

Monday's Supreme Court ruling should have little affect in Gilbert other 
than affirming their current practice of using the dogs without probable 
cause on a limited basis.

When it comes to traffic stops, Gilbert police follow strict guidelines for 
using the dogs.

"We can't hold the person there beyond the normal limits of a traffic 
stop," Gilbert police officer Greg Thomas said.

Pinal County Sheriff Roger Vanderpool said he thinks the decision is a good 
for law enforcement.

"I think it is a good thing for the good guys. It just reaffirms the way we 
were operating and that a sniff of the outside of the vehicle in a public 
place wasn't unreasonable," Vanderpool saidPhoenix criminal defense 
attorney Greg Parzych agrees the ruling is "good news" for police but not 
for individual rights.

"If you get stopped tonight and canine unit is in the area they can sniff 
your car because you were driving six miles over the speed limit," he said. 
"And if there is a false positive, you are going to be there a lot longer 
than a ticket and the search becomes much more intrusive."
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