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Massachusetts Law About Drug Detection Dogs

Selected Cases

Florida v. Harris, 568 US __ (Feb. 19, 2013). "The question—similar to every inquiry into probable cause—is whether all the facts surrounding a dog’s alert, viewed through the lens of common sense, would make a reasonably prudent person think that a search would reveal contraband or evidence of a crime. A sniff is up to snuff when it meets that test... Because training and testing records supported Aldo’s reliability in detecting drugs and Harris failed to undermine that evidence, Wheetley had probable cause to search Harris’s truck.”

United States v. Place, 462 U.S. 696, 77 L. Ed. 2d 110, 103 S. Ct. 2637 (1983) "…the sniff discloses only the presence or absence of narcotics, a contraband item. Thus, despite the fact that the sniff tells the authorities something about the contents of the luggage, the information obtained is limited….In these respects, the canine sniff is sui generis. We are aware of no other investigative procedure that is so limited both in the manner in which the information is obtained and in the content of the information revealed by the procedure. Therefore, we conclude that the particular course of investigation that the agents intended to pursue here -- exposure of respondent's luggage, which was located in a public place, to a trained canine -- did not constitute a "search" within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment."

IIlinois v. Caballes, 543 U.S. 405, 160 L. Ed. 2d 842, 125 S. Ct. 834, 838 (2005) Court reaffirmed precedent set in U. S. v Place. "Dog sniff conducted during a concededly lawful traffic stop that reveals no information other than the location of a substance that no individual has a right to possess does not violate the Fourth Amendment."

U. S. v. Grupee 682 F.3d 143 (1st Cir. 2012). Defendant argued that affidavit in support of search warrant was insufficient because no information was given about the dog's capacity to alert reliably and without excessive false positives, it merely indicated that the dog was a Mass.State Police drug detection dog. Justice Souter opined "…The reasonableness of relying on the behavior of a police dog depends on what one knows about the dog and the person who handles it, see United States v. Race, 529 F.2d 12, 14 (1st Cir. 1976); United States v. Berry, 90 F.3d 148, 153 (6th Cir. 1996), and the police can provide this sort of information in a readily available résumé of general certification standards and particular performance statistics, dog by dog, to be attached to a warrant application on a moment's notice. .. parsimonious though this disclosure was, we think it passes muster under existing circuit precedent on searches authorized by warrant, which holds that describing a drug detection dog as 'trained' and in the company of a drug detection agent is sufficient to allow a magistrate 'reasonably [to] infer' that a trained law enforcement dog has 'attained a high degree of proficiency in detecting the scent of narcotics.' United States v. Meyer, 536 F.2d 963, 966 (1st Cir. 1976)."

Comm. v. Feyenord, 445 Mass. 72 (2005) Court upheld police officer's decision to summons drug-detection dog unit during routine motor vehicle stop despite lacking drug-related suspicion "A dog sniff is not a search under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, see Illinois v. Caballes, 543 U.S. 405, 160 L. Ed. 2d 842, 125 S. Ct. 834, 837-838 (2005); United States v. Place, 462 U.S. 696, 707, 77 L. Ed. 2d 110, 103 S. Ct. 2637 (1983), and the court correctly concludes that a dog sniff of the exterior of an automobile is likewise not a search within the meaning of art. 14 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights." (Greaney, J., concurring).

Comm. v. Lawson, 79 Mass App Ct 322 (2011) Defendant's motion to suppress marijuana found in car was denied. "The defendant argues that there was no justification for a search for narcotics or to search the interior of the vehicle with a drug-sniffing dog. We disagree. Here, where the defendant was unable to provide a valid driver's license, demonstrated nervous behavior, possessed a large bundle of cash, had multiple air fresheners in the vehicle, and had a record of prior arrests for drug distribution, there was probable cause to search the vehicle, with or without a drug-sniffing dog."

Comm. v. Negron, 29 Mass L Rep 483 (2012). [This case is not available online, but may be requested for no charge from our Document Delivery service]. Defendants motion to suppress evidence obtained by a detection dog's interior search of a vehicle was allowed. "… the temporary detention of the Nissan for purposes of its examination by a drug-sniffing dog was reasonable given the facts in hand… However, with that examination resulting in no 'alert' by K-9 Mattie, the police had no further evidence upon which to base probable cause affirmatively to search the vehicle… A K-9 dog must indicate there are drugs before police allow it to enter a vehicle, barring some other legal justification."

Other Web Sources

Lammers, Ken, "Canine Sniffs: The search that isn't." Also published as 1 NYU J L & Liberty 845 (2005) Provides historical background and analysis of several opinions including U. S. v Place and Illinois v Caballes.

Myers II, Richard E., "Detector Dogs and Probable Cause" (March 31, 2006). bepress Legal Series. bepress Legal Series.Working Paper 1220. Also published as 14 Geo. Mason L. Rev. 1 (2006) Argues that an alert cannot, by itself, constitute probable cause to search. Also provides some background information about the abilities and limitations of detector dogs and examines Illinois v. Caballes.

Smith, Mark E., "Comment: Going to the Dogs: Evaluating the Proper Standard for Narcotic Detector Dog Searches of Private Residence." Also published as 46 Hous. L. Rev. 103 (2009) Smith, a police sergeant and narcotics detector dog handler, describes the factors that should be considered in evaluating the reliability of drug dog searches and proposes a standard for a drug dog alert to the exterior of a residence. Thorough analysis of how drug dogs work and what an alert means.

Fazecas, Monica, "Pawing their Way to the Supreme Court: the evidence required to prove a narcotic detection dog's reliability." Also published as 32 N Ill U L Rev 473 (Summer 2012) Proposes that training, certification and accuracy records for the dog and handler on a case by case basis, "a totality of the circumstances analysis," will protect against unreasonable searches.

Alfano, Jessica, "Note: Interior-Vehicle Sniffs: reining in the leash on drug-dog sniffs and searching for the 'search' that courts have yet to find." Also published as 46 New Eng L Rev 519 (Spring, 2012) Examines interior-sniff jurisprudence.

Print Sources

Scheft, John Sofis and Sofis, Lisa, Criminal Procedure police manual 2012: the Massachusetts police reference for criminal procedure, Law Enforcement Dimensions, 2012. Chapter 5: Encounters, Stops & Threshold Inquiries and Chapter 8: K-9 Operations.

Wallentine, Ken, K9 Officer's Legal Handbook, LexisNexis, 2008.

Morris, Ronen, "Note: James Otis, Raul Revere, A Routine Traffic Stop and the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court: when it comes to drug detection, it's not who let the dogs out, it's who wouldn't?" 12 Suffolk J. Trial & App. Adv. 121 (2007)

McDonald, Dan, "Passing the Sniff Test", Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, Aug. 6, 2012 (40 MLW 2041).