20 February 2013

Law in Plain English: Florida v. Harris

This is one in a series of posts designed to describe court decisions in plain English. For more detail and background on the legal issues, see the link to the case below. For similar posts, click here.

Florida v. Harris

A police officer pulled over Harris for a routine traffic stop. The officer used a dog ("Aldo") to conduct a sniff test. Aldo alerted, and the officer found pseudoephedrine and other methamphetamine precursors. After Harris's arrest and subsequent bail, Harri was stopped again and Aldo alerted again. However, nothing was found during the second stop. Harris's attorney challenged Aldo's certification and performance based on the false positive, suggesting that the dog sniff might not be sufficient to establish probable cause. The Supreme Court ruled that training records established Aldo's reliability in detecting drugs, and as a result, the officer had probable cause to search Harris's truck. The practical impact of this decision is that dog sniffs from police canines with documented training records are likely to be considered sufficient to establish probable cause.
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