Pubdate: Mon, 31 Jan 2005
Source: Tonawanda News (NY)
Copyright: 2005 Greater Niagara Newspapers
Author: Rick Pfeiffer
Action: Supreme Court Gives Drug Dogs Free Rein


NIAGARA FALLS -- Niagara County cops are casting a curious eye toward
a recent Supreme Court decision that appears to give them broader
powers to search vehicles during traffic stops.

The ruling said drug-sniffing dogs can be used to check out motorists,
even if officers have no reason to suspect they may be carrying narcotics.

"We've done that before, where we had a suspicion that the driver may
have been transporting drugs," Falls Police Superintendent John Chella
said. "I know Customs is doing it on the bridge when they have a
back-up. They take the dog out and just let it walk along the cars and
see if it alerts."

In a 6-2 decision last Monday, the high court sided with Illinois
Police who stopped Roy Caballes in 1998 for speeding on an interstate
highway. Troopers brought over a drug dog because they thought
Caballes seemed nervous about being stopped.

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. Any intrusion on
respondent's privacy expectations does not rise to the level of a
constitutionally cognizable infringement," Stevens wrote.

Stevens' decision was well received by Niagara County Sheriff Thomas

"It sounds like a reasonable and responsible decision," Beilein
said."I'm not sure how it may be applied in New York, because the
states can afford greater rights to people and New York has been a
state that has traditionally done that."

Caballes' conviction was originally thrown out by the Illinois Supreme
Court, but this decision reinstates it.

Concern over the decision was contained in a dissent by Justice Ruth
Bader Ginsburg. 
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