Pubdate: Tue, 25 Jan 2005
Source: Wisconsin State Journal (WI)
Section: Front, Page A3
Copyright: 2005 Madison Newspapers, Inc.
Author: Hope Yen Associated Press
Bookmark: (Cannabis)
Bookmark: (Cannabis and Driving)


WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court ruled Monday that police can have dogs 
check out motorists' vehicles for drugs even if officers have no particular 
reason to suspect illegal activity.

The 6-2 opinion, written by Justice John Paul Stevens, stipulates police 
dogs may sniff only the outside of a car after a motorist is lawfully 
stopped for a traffic violation, such as speeding or failing to stop at a 
stop sign.

But privacy rights advocates said the ruling would lead to far more traffic 
stops as a way to find drugs. They also warned that the decision could open 
the door to more expansive searches, from sniffs inside the vehicle to 
checks of cars parked along sidewalks and pedestrians on the street.

Before Monday's ruling, the Supreme Court had authorized drug dogs 
primarily to sniff luggage at airports.

"The use of dogs is intimidating," said Harvey Grossman, an attorney with 
the American Civil Liberties Union in Chicago. "Thousands of motorists have 
called complaining about suddenly finding their cars surrounded by 
policemen and drug dogs. Now no one is safe from this major intrusion into 
our lives."

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who argued the case, called the 
ruling a victory for law enforcement in the war on drugs. "The use of 
canine units to help fight this battle is indispensable," she said.

The case involves Roy Caballes, who was stopped by Illinois police in 1998 
for driving 6 mph over the speed limit. Although Caballes produced his 
driver's license, troopers brought over a drug dog after noticing air 
freshener in the car and noting Caballes appeared nervous.

The dog indicated drugs were in the trunk, and police searched it even 
though Caballes refused to give permission. They found $250,000 worth of 
marijuana, and Caballes was convicted of drug trafficking.

The verdict was thrown out by the Illinois Supreme Court, which ruled the 
search was improper because police had no particular reason to suspect 
Caballes had drugs.

In his opinion, Stevens reversed the state court ruling, saying the 
intrusion into Caballes' privacy was too minimal to invoke constitutional 

"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," 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 longer and more adversarial. She was joined in her 
dissent by Justice David Souter.

The court has long held that traffic stops should be brief since police 
often use them as a pretext to question motorists about other suspected 
illegal activity. Critics argue that authorities now will have wide power 
to check a car without consent, even if a police dog proved to be wrong 
about the presence of drugs.
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