Florida v. Harris
March 26, 2012
Case #: 11-817
Court Below: 71 So. 3d 756 (Fla. 2011)
Full Text Opinion: http://www.floridasupremecourt.org/decisions/2011/sc08-1871.pdf
Criminal Procedure: Whether an alert by a narcotics detection dog is sufficient to establish probable cause to search a vehicle.
After stopping Respondent for driving with expired tags, the officer asked Respondent for permission to search his vehicle. After Respondent refused, the officer retrieved Aldo, a highly trained and certified narcotics detection dog, who sniffed the driver’s door handle and alerted the officer to the presence of narcotics. A search revealed all of the materials necessary to make methamphetamine but no actual narcotics.
The trial court denied a motion to suppress evidence due to an illegal search and found that there was probable cause to support a search of the vehicle. The court of appeals affirmed per curiam. The Supreme Court of Florida reversed, holding that evidence that a dog has been trained and certified to detect narcotics is insufficient on its own to establish the dog’s reliability for purposes of determining probable cause. The Supreme Court granted certiorari to address whether a canine sniff is sufficient to establish probable cause on a showing that a dog is properly trained and certified to detect drugs, or whether additional evidence of the dog's proficiency is required.
Petitioner argues that the Florida Supreme Court's decision violates United States Supreme Court precedent that a sniff alert provides probable cause to search a vehicle. Petitioner argues that training and certification is enough evidence to establish probable cause, and an alert on a residual odor does not undermine that certification. Finally Petitioner argues that the Florida Supreme Court improperly expanded the Supreme Court's definition of "well trained drug dog".