A dog can be a drug cop’s best friend, and most of the Supreme Court justices said Wednesday that they saw no reason to limit a police officer’s use of a dog to sniff out drugs or explosives, reports the Los Angeles Times. The high court is being urged to overturn a 2003 decision by the Illinois Supreme Court, which held that a police officer who stopped a car for speeding needed evidence of a drug crime before the officer called in a drug-sniffing dog. Otherwise, the state judges said, all traffic stops could turn into drug searches.
But many of the Supreme Court justices seemed to view the issue differently during oral arguments Wednesday. “A dog sniff is not a search,” Justice Sandra Day O’Connor told a lawyer for the Illinois defendant, flatly rejecting the essence of his case. Around Capitol Hill, O’Connor said, there are many security checkpoints, and some use dogs to check cars, packages and backpacks. Are all of those searches unconstitutional? she asked. In their comments and questions, O’Connor and most of her colleagues said they were not prepared to rule that a police officer first had to have hints of a crime before the officer used a dog to sniff for evidence.