Perhaps we Americans have a distorted expectation for privacy in the car. But if it’s going to be challenged, we want a human, not a dog to do it. A 6-2 decision by the Supreme Court of this great land has just ruled that a dog can determine if there is probable cause for law enforcement to search your car. This presents another good reason to drive the speed limit. Man drives a little over the posted speed threshold, gets stopped by cop. There are no drugs in sight, which would provide the police probable cause to search. But a drug-sniffing dog gives the signal that there is something suspicious in the trunk. Even the Illinois case cited a study that these dogs return 60 percent false positives.
Justice Stevens presented the opinion of the Court: “In our view, conducting a dog sniff would not change the character of a traffic stop that is lawful at its inception and otherwise executed in a reasonable manner, unless the dog sniff itself infringed respondent’s constitutionally protected interest in privacy. Our cases hold that it did not.” Yeah, like protection from intimidation or racial profiling. I imagine that events proceeding from this law will yield more fear of a “police state” than actual evidence.
Justice Stevens was, clearly, speaking of someone, not himself, when he argued that the “governmental conduct” of sniffing and, possibly, mistakenly prying into your vehicle does not intrude on a privacy interest.
We have held that any interest in possessing contraband cannot be deemed legitimate, and thus, governmental conduct that only reveals the possession of contraband compromises no legitimate privacy interest.
You mean, if no drugs are found my privacy isn’t violated? A glance into the car by an officer making a legitimate stop is a very different level of intrusiveness than the “advanced” technology applied by using a dog. Consider the distinction between taking notes during a phone interview without the other parties’ “permission” and tape-recording the conversation under the same conditions.
What is the significance of the use of drug-sniffing dogs at otherwise routine traffic stops?