We have all seen it. Police pull more than a car. The driver of the automobile gets out and the police bring a dog to the vehicle. The dog is frequently a German Shepherd. The dog jumps into the car and sniffs about. The dog may possibly signal to the police handler that it smells one thing and the police officer investigates further.
The following case appears to test the limits of what is a reputable “sniff dog” for purposes of supporting a conviction for possession of narcotics.
Darla Stillwell and Robin Briggs had been stopped by Marysville Police in May possibly, 2009 even though driving by way of downtown Marysville, California. The stated explanation for the quit was that the rear license plate on their choose up truck was blocked by the bumper.
When 1 of the officers spoke to Briggs, the officer noticed Briggs’ eyes have been glassy and his pupils were fixed and not reacting to light. Briggs explained that he had taken methadone earlier in the day.
An additional officer then arrived at the scene with a police narcotic detection dog, Tommy. That officer then asked Briggs if he could take a appear inside the truck. Briggs said no.
The officer handling Tommy then asked Briggs if his dog could verify the exterior of the truck and Briggs consented.
Tommy was trained, certified and current in his annual qualification to detect the odors of cocaine base, cocaine powder, methamphetamines, marijuana and heroin.
Tommy was then led about Briggs’ truck. As he got to the rear of the truck, he jumped up on his hind legs and place his front paws on the side of the truck. He then sniffed at a small backpack in the bed of the truck. Tommy then sat down and gave his handler the signal that he smelled some thing in the pick up truck.
The handler then looked into the backpack and located chemical bottles, a 500 milliliter glass beaker, a metal can of xylene, denatured alcohol and many white tablets that officers believed might include ephedrine. The handler did not find cocaine base, cocaine powder, methamphetamines, marijuana or heroin, even so, the officer recognized the materials as parts of a meth lab.
The officer then obtained a search warrant to search Briggs’ and Stillwell’s residence, exactly where they discovered many added things used in a meth lab, as properly as a syringe filled with heroin.
Briggs and Stillwell moved to suppress all evidence obtained from Tommy’s signal that he smelled one thing of interest based on the prosecution failing to establish Tommy was a reliable narcotics detection dog and that the dog’s signal did not establish probable trigger for the warrantless search of the backpack. The trial court denied the motion.
Defendants appealed to the Third Appellate District. In Individuals v Stillwell (2011 DJDAR 11132), the Court affirmed the trial court’s ruling. In ruling on the reliability of Tommy, the Court pointed out that the backpack was never ever tested for the presence of those drugs that Tommy was certified to detect, so such drugs in fact might have been present. Additionally, even if there were an error by Tommy in signaling for narcotics that in fact were not there, “a single error does not make Tommy unreliable.”
As to Tommy’s signal to his handler establishing probable result in to search, the Court took a diverse angle, explaining that since the backpack was in an automobile, the automobile exception to the warrant requirement applied and the warrantless search was not unconstitutional.