Our Florida Supreme Court was asked to decide this important canine Question of Law which has kept even your favorite crime attorney in Clearwater in suspense:  When does a drug-detection dog’s alert to the outside of a vehicle provide a police officer with probable cause to search the inside of that vehicle without a search warrant?

I tend toward the view that when brave Aldo (the famous dog you’ll read about in the case below) smells so much marijuana that he slumps down while eating lots of treats from the munchies that sufficient probable cause has been established for an immediate arrest of anyone in the vicinity, the Florida Supreme Court agrees:

Officer William Wheetley and his drug-detection dog, Aldo, were on patrol.  Officer Wheetley conducted a traffic stop of Harris’s truck for an expired tag.  Upon approaching the truck, Officer Wheetley noticed that Harris was shaking, breathing rapidly, and could not sit still (editors note: Harris is the Defendant, not the dog.)
Officer Wheetley also noticed an open beer can in the cup holder.  When Officer Wheetley asked for consent to search the truck, Harris refused.  Officer Wheetley then deployed Aldo.  Upon conducting a ‘free air sniff’ of the exterior of the truck, Aldo alerted to the door handle of the driver’s side.

Underneath the driver’s seat, Officer Wheetley discovered over 200 pseudoephedrine pills in a plastic bag wrapped in a shirt.  On the passenger’s side, Officer Wheetley discovered eight boxes of matches containing a total of 8,000 matches.  Officer Wheetley then placed Harris under arrest.  A subsequent search of a toolbox on the passenger side revealed muriatic acid.  Officer Wheetley testified that these chemicals are precursors of methamphetamine.  After being read his Miranda Rights, Harris stated that he had been cooking meth for about one year and most recently cooked it at his home in Blountstown two weeks prior to the stop.  Harris also admitted to being addicted to meth and needing it at least every few days.”

Here’s what the Court ruled:

Whether or not a drug dog’s alert to the outside of a vehicle provides an officer with probable cause to search the inside of the vehicle without a search warrant depends upon the dog’s reliability to detect illegal substances within a vehicle.  In order to establish reliability the following things must be established at trial or at a hearing before the judge:
 All records and evidence necessary for the trial judge to evaluate the dog’s reliability in detecting illegal substances so the trial judge can evaluate how well a dog (go Aldo go!) is trained and whether it falsely alerted during its training with a percentage of false alerts, including the dog’s successes and failures (no no no, not our Aldo!).
Sadly for our Brave Aldo, but happily for the Defendant, the Court concluded that the dog’s alert did not provide his handler with probable cause to search the inside of the truck without a search warrant because Aldo’s reliability was not established since his trainer failed to accurately keep records of Aldo’s false alerts nor was evidence presented about Aldo’s ability to detect ‘residual odors’ (my dog, Sancho, has those too).
After the case, Brave Aldo the Drug Busting Dog retired from his Police Duties to be adopted by a normal family in Tallahassee Florida. Here is a recent painting of Aldo with his new friend & master The Chief  Judge of the Florida Supreme Court. Odd, but neighbors complain that the Dog constantly alerts
File:Carl Locher with his dog Tiger (Ancher).jpg
Carl Locher with his dog Tiger by Michael Archer, 1909


The grim war on drugs continues in Florida. Rather than attempting to get treatment for drug abusers the State of Florida and the Federal Government continue to destroy lives with harsh penalties and harsh sentencing. While the people’s true drug of choice – alcohol – kills more people than other intoxicants whether legal or not, undermining the very premise of the War on Drugs, that the Government is attempting to save lives.

The Miami Herald details the fall in Cocaine as the drug of choice in Miami, Tampa Bay and Pinellas, Florida, because of its high price per dose compared to relatively cheaper prescription drugs which are easier to obtain. 
Given that the purity of cocaine has been reduced by drug smugglers and dealers, users pay more and get less of the drug, while the drug users are increasingly turning to cheaper prescription drugs such as oxycodone that are easier to get, experts say.

Cocaine is “not disappearing, but it’s definitely declining,” said James N. Hall, director of the Center for the Study and Prevention of Substance Abuse. “People are getting half of what they used to get — and this is occurring in the middle of the economic downturn. Cocaine, the most expensive drug on a per-dose basis, is costing more,” Hall said.
Below find a link to James Hall’s alcohol study, which establishes that alcohol is much more destructive even than cocaine and methamphetamine, as cocaine is ranked fifth in causes of drug deaths, behind crystal methamphetamine and alcohol.

A Tampa Bay Criminal Defense Lawyer enjoys a small libation while awaiting a Jury Verdict.

Picasso Portrait of Angel Fernandez de Soto, 1903


The paper reports this morning that crime rates in Tampa Florida as in most of the rest of the nation drifted lower this year, something of a surprise to every Clearwater Criminal Attorneys as the number of Floridians who are incarcerated continues to rise. I’ll stop for a moment for any criminal defense attorneys, fond colleagues and friends, to wipe their eyes before they try to finish reading this sentence. There, there brighten up! It’s all in what you define as “serious crime.”

Governor Bush suggests that it was his policies of more jail cells and long term sentences that are the immediate cause of the fall of serious crime. But new studies show the truth that Florida’s prison and criminal justice system has failed to deter crime despite the use of cocaine going down in Florida as unlawful prescription fraud drug use rises, because Florida fails to do anything effective as Europe has with drug decriminalization
And it is true that his effective leadership included the appointmant of the man who for years ran the brutal Florida prison system and who now faces Federal prison himself having just pled guilty to bribery in Federal Court. One might think that the Governor is correct, that it was his policies that forced down serious crime, if his policies in Florida might somehow have contributed to the fall in serious crime in places as far flung as New York City and San Francisco.

Yet our smiling Governor fails to note that “serious crime” is defined as violent crime and does not encompass the escalation of other very destructive crimes such as Identity Theft. Identity Theft is especially pernicious, bringing financial havoc and disorder while ruining the lives of those it touches.

Clearly the rate of serious crime falling in the United States is due to an aging population and a reasonably good economy. But it may also have something to do with the drug culture that has gone from crack cocaine and the robberies and burglaries that sustained cocaine use to the much more deliberative crimes caused by crystal methamphetamine users who often turn to nonviolent crimes such as Identity Theft, which has been defined as not serious by our government. Every crime is serious to the the family of those charged, if you’ve been charged with a serious crime call a Clearwater Criminal Defense Lawyer to help defend you.