Pubdate: Sun, 30 Jan 2005
Source: Bowling Green Daily News (KY)
Copyright: 2005 News Publishing LLC
Author: Hayli Fellwock


Law enforcement officers in Warren County won't feel much of an impact from
the U.S. Supreme Court's 6-2 ruling that narcotics-detection dogs may be
used to sniff the outside of a vehicle during a traffic stop, even when
officers have no suspicion of drug activity.

The ruling last week states that no rights violations are created by "a dog
sniff conducted at a concededly lawful traffic stop that reveals no
information other than the location of a substance that no individual has
any right to possess."

Justices David Souter and Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented on the basis of the
Fourth Amendment protection against unlawful searches and seizures.

"The infallible dog ... is a creature of legal fiction," Souter wrote,
holding up as examples previous Supreme Court cases that highlighted false
alerts by dogs up to 38 percent of the time.

Previous Supreme Court rulings have backed up the use of drug dogs to sniff
outside vehicles during traffic stops.

Officer Kevin Renfrow, a K-9 officer with the Bowling Green Police
Department, said the term "false alert" can be misleading because there is a
misconception about the true purpose of narcotics-detection dogs.

"It's hard to say if that is an improper alert because the dog is alerting
on the smell and not the actual drug itself, so the drug may have been there
and been removed, but the odor is still there," he said.

Renfrow said his dog, Blitz, along with the department's other K-9, Tzar, is
trained to sniff out four drugs - marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine and

He said the dog will probably not smell a few marijuana seeds, but can smell
the scent of drugs on money, depending on how much money is present.

He said Blitz once sniffed out $2,000 cash hidden in a dog food bag.

The U.S. Supreme Court decision reversed an Illinois Supreme Court ruling
that the arrest of Roy Caballes on drug charges was unlawful.

The Illinois court ruled that Caballes' constitutional rights were violated
when, while Caballes was stopped for speeding, a drug dog sniffed around his
car and alerted on 282 pounds of marijuana in the trunk.

Renfrow said it is common practice for city police to have a dog sniff the
outside of the vehicle if officers suspect the occupants are involved in
drug activity.

"We've never really stopped doing it," he said. "From the schooling we've
been to, it's always been acceptable. Basically, a dog is sniffing free

Sgt. Tony Chism of the Warren County Sheriff's Department agreed that there
will be no change in department procedure. Currently, a deputy may ask for
consent to search a vehicle. If consent is denied, dogs may be called in to
sniff the outside of the vehicle. Chism said this is generally done only
when there are indicators of illegal substances in the vehicle.

"It's not going to affect us and it's not going to affect the community
because we're not going to use it on every vehicle," Chism said. 
- ---
MAP posted-by: Josh