Pubdate: Tue, 25 Jan 2005
Source: Oklahoman, The (OK)
Copyright: 2005 The Oklahoma Publishing Co.
Author: Dawn Marks


A U.S. Supreme Court ruling announced Monday will allow police officers to 
use drug-sniffing dogs on every legitimate traffic stop.

The ruling indicates handlers can use dogs as long as the traffic stop is 
legitimate, even if officers have no reason to suspect drivers are carrying 

Many in law enforcement feared an adverse ruling would have reduced the 
role of drug dogs during traffic stops and led to more unchecked drug 
trafficking in the state.

"Now you can continue to do it (use dogs) without reasonable suspicion (of 
drugs)," Midwest City police Cpl. Randy Neal said. "I do use my dog on a 
routine basis, not on every one but the majority of stops."

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in November on Illinois v. Caballes, 
a case involving a man stopped in Illinois five years ago. An officer was 
writing a warning for him until a dog, which another officer brought, 
sniffed out $250,000 worth of drugs in the car's trunk.

Roy Caballes' attorneys contended police needed reasonable suspicion that 
he was hiding drugs to run a dog outside his car.

The justices voted 6-2 in favor of allowing the use of drug-sniffing dogs 
without reasonable suspicion. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David Souter 
dissented. Justice William Rehnquist did not participate.

According to the court, "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."

The Fourth Amendment protects citizens against unreasonable search and seizure.

The court also indicated the use of the dog in the Illinois case did not 
detain Caballes unreasonably. The stop lasted less than 10 minutes.

Tina Izadi, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of 
Oklahoma, said the organization is optimistic the state won't subject 
motorists to threatening searches just because they exceeded the speed 
limit or violated a traffic law.

"As Justice Ginsburg noted in her dissent, the use of these drug dogs 
changes the character and nature of the traffic stop from a simple 
interaction between the police officer and the citizen to a menacing 
experience in which many individuals feel threatened," Izadi said.

Scott Rowland, Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control 
general counsel, said the ruling will help officers understand what they 
can do on traffic stops.

"This makes it clear that as long as they're diligently pursing their 
business on the traffic stop, they can have another officer run a drug 
dog," Rowland said.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Beth