Friday, January 28, 2005

Court: dog sniff at traffic stop upheld

The Supreme Court, in a 6-2 decision Monday, ruled that police do not violate the Fourth Amendment when they use a drug-detecting dog to locate illegal drugs in the trunk of a car during a legal traffic stop. In an opinion written by Justice John Paul Stevens, the Court declared: "A dog sniff conducted during a concededly lawful traffic stop that reveals no information other than the location of a substance that no individual has any right to possess does not violate the Fourth Amendment."The Court majority stressed that it was ruling only narrowly, in a situation where a dog was used only to check out the exterior of a car stopped for speeding. Thus, the Court appeared to leave open the question of conducting a dog-sniff investigation outside of a home, if that were capable of detecting legal activity going on inside the residence. A number of cases are pending at the Court challenging the use of dogs to sniff the exterior of homes.Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David H. Souter dissented, but each indicated they were not saying police could not use dog-sniffs to detect explosives or biological weapons, perhaps used by a terrorist. The case was Illinois v. Caballes