The Supreme Court will decide whether a police dog is conducting a search when it sniffs the air for drugs. The Los Angeles Times notes that the Constitution forbids unreasonable police searches by the police, and the high court has said officers may not search a car for drugs unless they have reason to suspect the motorist is breaking the law.
In November, the Illinois Supreme Court invalidated drug charges against a motorist who was stopped for speeding on an interstate highway. After one officer stopped the car, a second arrived and circled the car with a “drug-detection dog.” When the dog smelled something in the trunk, the officer opened it and found marijuana. The motorist, Ray Caballes, was convicted and sentenced to 12 years in prison.
The Illinois court in a 4-3 decision said that the “canine sniff” amounted to an unjustified search. That will be reviewed by the high court. “A canine sniff is not a search under the 4th Amendment,” said Illinois Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan. She cited past decisions involving luggage and highway checkpoints in which the justices said the use of a drug-sniffing dog did not invalidate a search.