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Join the conversation! There are now 20 comments on this chapter's page 84. Dog Sniff vs. Search. What are your thoughts?
    • He mentioned the key point of the article you linked in the comic – while the sniff-search doesn’t create a Fourth Amendment issue, where you bring the dog might (such as onto private property)

  1. Rockie says

    Man, why do I feel the whole crazy cars theme was just to set up that gag?

    Love your work, man.

  2. Tualha says

    I’ve heard those dogs are pretty unreliable.

    It also occurs to me that if the dog tends to register a lot of false positives, that would be very convenient for the state.

    If the dog thinks it smells something, and they therefore open the trunk and look, and don’t find drugs but do find, for example, stolen goods, is that admissible?

    I suppose you’re planning to cover that, but maybe not…

    • I’ve read that you’d get roughly equal results by tossing a coin. Their getting so widespread despite not working is rather troubling, insofar as it’s an indicator of just how eager the government is to justify more searches.

      Of course, another possible angle is wanting to use more dogs as its own reward; dogs are intimidating, and make a great reminder of who’s in charge.

      • “Probable cause” means more likely than not. It doesn’t have to be much better than a coin flip to meet that standard. And most sniffer dogs are not particularly intimidating: despite what they show on TV and film, they don’t tend to use large, aggressive dogs which are poorly suited for the role.

        But the dog sniff is not the evidence being used to convict, just the evidence to make the search. If the dog is wrong, and there are no drugs, nothing further happens.

    • Oh, and I would say yes, they will use anything they find, not just drugs. Anywhere an officer has the right to be, he can seize and use anything he sees, remember?

    • The courts have been very much gone to the dogs here, and pretty much accepted dog evidence despite very poor evidence for it actually being much good. Essentially the dog is used to justify the officer’s suspicions, not to test them. The dog may sense the drugs, or that his handler wants him to signal, or the handler may simply declare he signaled whether or not he did.
      Dog evidence may get tossed in the future, but so far the court are letting it slide. Still, there have been several cases where they have been expensively wrong, and judges may eventually decide they are not reasonable cause. But don’t hold your breath. False traffic stops just to do searches are well-known and the courts have had little interest in stopping them. So they may well continue to accept dogs as an excuse.

  3. John M says

    I believe there’s a small portal reference in this comic?

  4. says

    Picture no worky

  5. Kyllo v. United States said that thermal scanners could not be used on houses to detect contraband, without a warrant.

    There is something this comic isn’t telling us.

    Is it only a car that is not off-limits? Is it the fact that smells exit the private space into the public space? Something about the ‘magic scanner’ argument is fishy.

    • Kyllo is a different situation, though. It says you can’t use thermal imagers, which could reveal the contents of the house beyond the mere presence of contraband.

      There is also a sanctity of the home principle behind that case, as well as the Jardines case from earlier this year, which held that the police cannot bring a dog up to the front door of your house to sniff for drugs. Even though only contraband would be detected in that case, going into the curtilage of your home to do it constituted a search.

      • That isn’t true. Thermal cameras can’t see anything inside a building, just that the building is unusually warm. The “camera that can see through walls” is a hypothetical future surveillance device, not the thermal camera actually used.

        • It’s letting you see information about the interior of the home that wouldn’t otherwise be detected without going inside. That’s what the Supreme Court in Kyllo wanted to prevent — not just the low-resolution detail from the FLIR being used at the time, but also potential higher-resolution details that future technologies might make possible. The principle is the same; the resolution is only a.. uh… detail.

          Here’s FLIR imaging from when they found Dzhokhar Tsarnaev hiding inside a covered boat, btw, showing present ability to “see” inside areas where one might have an expectation of privacy:

          • Well, that’s a bit of a different situation; a tarp over a boat is transparent to IR, while brick walls are so solid as to be totally opaque. It’s not a matter of imager resolution, thermal cameras just aren’t up to the job in principle. Not that such a camera couldn’t potentially be made using a different principle of course; that’s what Kyollo was trying to prevent, I understand. The law always seems to be lagging behind technology, and they were trying to make the principle clear rather than simply saying “No, thermal cameras are out. Find some other way to invade people’s privacy and get back to us in ten years”.

  6. Eric says

    If you can’t use a checkpoint to search for contraband but you have a drug sniffing dog at the checkpoint, it seems like you were intending to search for contraband before you started stopping cars and that sounds like a problem.

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