Pubdate: Tue, 25 Jan 2005
Source: Star-Banner, The (FL)
Copyright: 2005 The Star-Banner
Author: Hope Yen, Associated Press Writer
Bookmark: (Cannabis)
Bookmark: (Cannabis and Driving)


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.

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 lawfully 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 

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 H. Souter.
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