The United State Supreme Court ruled Tuesday in favor of the State of Florida in Florida v. Clayton Harris, deciding that police dog Aldo’s sniff constituted probable cause for Liberty County K-9 Officer William Wheetley to search Harris’s vehicle for illegal drugs, according to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.
The high court’s decision is important to law enforcement officers throughout the nation as it now clarifies the legal standard governing their reliance on drug detection dogs, a common law enforcement practice.
“This victory is paramount to preserving our law enforcement officers’ ability to use police dog alerts to locate illegal drugs and arrest those who possess them," stated Attorney General Pam Bondi in a prepared release. "The Supreme Court correctly held that a police dog’s reliability is determined through a common-sense evaluation of the relevant circumstances, rather than through a rigid set of judge-created requirements."
The Supreme Court unanimously reversed the Florida Supreme Court’s judgment and declared, “Because training records established Aldo’s reliability in detecting drugs and Harris failed to undermine that showing, we agree with the trial court that Wheetley had probable cause to search Harris’s truck.”
Harris' case is one of two the high court is considering this term about the validity of evidence obtained by drug-sniffing dogs. A decision has yet to be issued in the second case.
"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," Justice Elena Kagan wrote for the court. "A sniff is up to snuff when it meets that test."