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There are now 29 comments... what are your thoughts?
  1. Advert says

    “She’s only human [referencing to the dog]”

    I’m guessing you were meaning, “She’s only canine” — although, that sounds kind of odd, I’d suppose it works better than “… human” :D

  2. Y. Exeter says

    Didn’t Jake mention that he needed to pee yonks ago?

    Man, I’d hate to be the person who has to clean out the back of police cruisers…

  3. As I understand things she could still be culpable of unintentional aiding & abetting. Whether she actually gets busted or not could be the cops decision. either way she needs to prove a negative, which is not a great position to be in.

    • As far as I know you can’t “unintentionally” aid and abet. Remember the criminal law comics? If you don’t know someone has committed a crime, how can you possibly have the mens rea to be guilty of it? Unless you should have known better (and here, Patty didn’t know anything was up until they were in line)

      • I think the bigger issue here is obstruction of justice. How she stalled on rolling down the window when they were stopped? The baggie dropped through the hole? I think those could be considered covering up for Jake’s activities.

        • The hole was on the passengers side. All points to Jack. About the window, well, there can be many reasons why it wasn’t lowered in an instant. But if I were Patty I would clearly distance myself from that jerk Jack. But from the reaction I think one can tell that Patty had no idea of the dope. As Cop I would let her drive on, and let her tell everyone what happens to Jack. Surely this experience will deter her from any dope crime.

        • Yes. Strict Liability doesn’t apply to most crimes. I’m almost certain it doesn’t apply to this one. I mean, think about it, if you didn’t know someone was a fugitive, and you rented them a hotel room or gave them directions or sold them a taco, you could go to jail for that.

          I don’t think obstruction applies here either. I think that’s more something TV cops like to threaten witnesses with, but doesn’t happen so much in real life unless you do some majorly stupid stuff like destroy evidence. Remember, at the start of the encounter, it wasn’t a criminal investigation, just a sobriety checkpoint, and they were looking for drunks, not pot.

  4. Merle says

    Dog searches are laughably subject to handler influence. They really need to be more heavily restricted.
    What we see here is a ‘Clever Hans’ effect. The handler is expecting to find something in the trunk, so he reacts in some manner – probably unconsciously. The dog picks up on his reaction and, wanting his approval, goes for the trunk.

    • Recently, SCOTUS said that as long as the drug dog has passed training tests, they’re giving the benefit of the doubt to the police that the dog’s alerts are valid. Someone will need to go after the training system itself to change the current situation, and prove that it’s flawed.

    • In this particular case, it’s clearly an honest sniff; see the end of the last page, where the dog didn’t think the engine compartment (in the rear of the car) was interesting.

      • You’re kidding, right? You can’t say “well, he didn’t give an indication this time, so the next time definitely won’t be a false positive!”

  5. Moving a comment here that was posted to a random page:

    • Kind of off topic but did you hear about the recent experiment that might have debunked the use of drug dogs? Apparently it’s likely that most police dogs are reacting to social cues from the officers rather than actually finding drugs.

      • There has been a lot of discussion about this and other false-positive factors over the years. It’s a serious concern deserving serious discussion. Unfortunately, the analysis gets muddied by a lot of things — not just people pushing agendas, but also a dismal lack of understanding of how statistics work. (If you’re interested in the math, check out this recent paper.)

        Properly handled, dogs can be pretty reliable. As with any tool, the issue is more with the officer (mis)using it than with the tool’s own inherent (un)reliability. But still, it might be nice to have some kind of record of how often a particular dog (or handler) got false positives. Kind of a calibration check.

        Florida’s supreme court tried to require that records be kept of each dog’s hits and false positives, but the U.S. Supreme Court shot that down last year in Florida v. Harris. The Florida court went too far in making the log a prerequisite for a finding of probable cause, instead of merely a factor to be considered. All that is required is a showing — under the totality of the circumstances — that the dog is merely reliable enough to provide probable cause.

        That’s really all it boils down to: Was the dog’s alert reliable enough, all things considered, to give a cop good reason to believe the evidence was there. Whether a given dog was reacting to a handler cue is something to be examined at the suppression hearing, not a foregone conclusion. (And if you’re having a hearing to suppress that evidence, it’s hard to argue it was a false positive.)

        • “And if you’re having a hearing to suppress that evidence, it’s hard to argue it was a false positive.”

          Isn’t this kind of the same thing as “You don’t need rights unless you’ve got something to hide” though? It’s very circular to say “well clearly it wasn’t a false positive because there was something there!” But at the same time just because there’s something there doesn’t mean the dog saw it… or smelled it as it were.

          And it’s not a shock to find that false-positives are very common among police dogs, it’s a well-known aspect of animal psychology. I’m not saying that the cop even understands they’re doing something wrong or mishandling on purpose, but you have to understand: there have been many hoaxes involving this. Honestly if the policeman/handler anticipates finding drugs behind something, this is the sort of thing a dog can pick up. Horses can, after all (see the hoaxes involving counting or mathematical horses), pick up on those self-same queues and biologically dogs are far more in tune with human psychology than horses.

          I guess it’s one more instance of politicians making laws without really understanding the science behind those laws. Half the reason I could never go into politics or law is because I love science too much and trying to explain some very, very basic concepts (like how a dog reacts psychologically to a human’s subtle cues, or the subconscious ways humans communicate through body language) to someone who doesn’t want to listen because they’re emotionally embroiled in arresting them darned criminals corruptin’ our youth is about the same as splashing my brains across a brick wall.

          • There are few things more frustrating than watching the courts determine something’s scientific validity. You wouldn’t believe how much snake oil gets thrown around here.

            That’s not the point I was making, though. Neither was I making the circular argument you mention. All I was saying there is, if the dog alerted for heroin, and heroin was in fact discovered, then you’re going to have a hard time claiming the dog was unreliable in its detection of heroin (absent some other persuasive data to the contrary).

            The legal challenge is more likely to come when the dog alerted for heroin, but the police found some other kind of contraband instead.

            Back to the science: There certainly can be handler influence. One thing I’d like to see, but haven’t yet, is a study of dog-sniff reliability that includes the handler/dog combination as a datum. It seems obvious to me that this should be a factor that’s taken into consideration. And so long as I’m wishing for things, I’d be interested in seeing data broken out by what the dog was sniffing for — marijuana, opiates, coke, fruits (tons of these dogs are at airports and borders), bombs, etc. — and I’d like to see proper regression analysis once all these variables are identified.

            But at the end of the day, it’s still kinda academic. The issue is never going to be whether the dog’s alert was a guarantee, or even evidentiary proof. It only has to be just reliable enough to give a police officer probable cause. As in “I have reason to believe there’s probably some [substance] in there.” Something tells me courts are going to continue to say that dog sniffs easily clear this hurdle.

            • If you were to replace the dog with a coin toss, then none of the suppression hearings would be false positives either. It doesn’t say anything about the reliability of the method.

              • Yes it would, because a coin toss does not constitute probable cause to justify further searches, whereas a dog alerting does.

                A lot of diagnostic tests for deadly diseases have false positives often. If a lung cancer test has a 50% false positive rate, and you test positive, are you really going to ignore the test result?

                • This sounds like a classic example of the merits of Bayesian reasoning! Short answer: Probably, yes, you should ignore this test, because it isn’t very useful. If you just gave it to people at random, then the vast, vast majority of positives would be false positives. You went from a 0.3% chance of having lung cancer to a 0.5% chance of having lung cancer or the like, who cares. Now if you gave it to someone who is 70 years old and chain-smokes tobacco and has been complaining about being short of breath and every other risk factor set to “yes” such that the a-priori chance of having lung cancer was pretty big… sure, maybe the test is a signal to keep poking. In this case the test’s negative result is actually more useful than a positive one.

                  Bringing it back to law… as noted above, good luck convincing the court to exclude it if a coin-toss equivalent “test” actually worked, but coin tosses as an excuse for a search is pretty scary as far as what it means for police power. For starters, suppose the cops want to bust some guy. Just keep spamming this test on him until it (falsely) says yes, he has heroin…

          • Again, the dog’s sniff is not the evidence of crime, it’s just for probable cause. It probably would not even be used in court beyond the evidentiary hearing.

  6. Liam says

    Good old Uncle Joe’s…

  7. WJS says

    As I understand it, probable cause means that it’s more likely than not that something’s up, but when a dog signals it’s less likely to be set off by actual contraband and more likely to be the handler. And the officer last comic who said dogs are a magic tool that only picks up on contraband? I can’t believe that a handler wouldn’t know that they aren’t that reliable, which would make him a liar.

    • Re: “I can’t believe that a handler wouldn’t know that they aren’t that reliable, which would make him a liar.”, I disagree. Confirmation bias is an important consideration, which may be a good argument to keep records and do statistical analysis on the results from the dogs.

      • And remember, they don’t need to be an infallibly perfect tool. All they need to be is accurate enough to give probable cause. Which really only means “they’re right more often than not.” This would be the case for any tool, not just trained dogs.

  8. Sam says

    What does “can actually be driven” mean? If I’m pulled over and I destroy the key to ignition, does that mean the trunk cannot be searched without a warrant? If so, and it is searched without warrant, is the evidence excluded?

    • A: “Officer, this car can no longer be driven, because I just ate the key.”
      B: “I don’t believe you. I’m searching.”
      A: “Officer, I just ate this key in front of you. The car can no longer be driven away.”
      B: “Fine, you ate that key, but how am I to know you haven’t stashed another key somewhere else? If you did, you could drive the car. I’m searching it.”
      A: “Officer, my engine is on fire, and was just destroyed!”
      B: “This sounds like an emergency situation. Maybe you were transporting explosives. I think I should search your car to ensure public safety is preserved.”

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