Wednesday, April 22, 2015

SCOTUS Drops The Ball In Drug Sniffing Dog Ruling

As reported over the last couple of days, the Supreme Court of the United States - in a 6-3 Majority ruling led by Justice Ginsberg's opinion - decided that Nebraska Police officers required a warrant to search a car with a drug sniffing dog after a traffic stop was completed.

LINK: Read the Courts opinion HERE

Now, in many circles this ruling is being hailed as a victory for the Fourth Amendment - which lately has been taking more punches to the head than smooth talking Leon Spinks.  But the reality is, the only change brought forth by the SCOTUS ruling is how Police will conduct traffic stops.

Officers in the Nebraska case stopped the car, wrote the ticket and then detained the vehicle and occupants for an additional 7-8 minutes while awaiting the arrival of a drug sniffing K-9.  When the dog arrived the Police were told by the occupants that they did not consent to a search.  They were removed from the car and on the second trip around, the dog pointed on what turned out to be a bag of meth under the seat.

“Absent reasonable suspicion, police extension of a traffic stop in order to conduct a dog sniff violates the Constitution’s shield against unreasonable seizures,” Ginsburg said, in an opinion joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

So the reality is, they didn't rule that drug sniffing dogs trampled on your Fourth Amendment Rights,  they ruled the dog must be brought to the car within the time frame of the traffic stop.

My question is this - absent Probable Cause, how is it ever legal to detain a citizen of the U.S.A.?  

If an LEO has Probable Cause, then he should search the car - just open the car door and start rooting around.
But, if an LEO has to bring in a dog to confirm his inkling, then all he has is a hunch, and hunches aren't included in any way, shape or form in the wording of the Fourth Amendment.  Detaining someone because you have a "feeling" about them, or they are acting "hinky" is not Probable Cause by any definition and doesn't hold up in Court.  And by that standard, if you have to wait for a dog to give you Probable Cause to do a search, then you had no right to detain them in the first place. You have - purely and simply - violated their Fourth Amendment Rights.

For a long time now, our Fourth Amendment Rights have been slowly eroded as the Courts have sided again and again with Police, using the "in the interest of public safety" ruse.  With this ruling, SCOTUS had the opportunity to cut a wider swath, putting teeth back into the Fourth Amendment - but alas, they dropped the ball.

In the end, they could have restored Honor and Integrity to the Bill of Rights.  They could have taken back what has been given away.  They could have pushed back against the militarization of Police in this Country.  But they didn't.

And then my question becomes...Why?

Stay Safe and Carry Responsibly

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