Marking his path to legal history, Aldo, Florida’s favorite crusading drug dog, is sniffing for glory at the United States Supreme Court. The Court is reviewing a recent Florida Supreme Court decision which threatened Aldo’s career by finding that drug dog alerts are not a reliable indicator that there are drugs in a vehicle, because Aldo’s handler in testimony failed to show that Aldo’s drug dog alerts were reliable and the alerts are often false. 

Aldo the florida drug dog now at the U.S. Supreme Court on reliability of  drug dog alerts in Clearwater, Largo, St. Petersburg, Florida
Aldo, Weans Himself from Drugs

As the dignified members of the United States Supreme Court deliberate upon Aldo’s fate – one hopes not based on that little mistake made on the Court’s best rug in Chambers – questions arise as to whether recent studies showing the unreliability of drug dog alerts should be brought to heel.

Especially problematic to the fifty law professors specializing in fourth amendment cases who signed a brief against Aldo are false alerts caused when some unsuspecting citizens happen to have chemicals in their vehicles which could confuse poor Aldo. For example, drug dogs habitually give false alerts allowing for warrantless searches by mistaking the odor of aspirin or vinegar for heroin. 

Despite high rates of false alerts some states have announced plans to begin vast sweeps thru American neighborhoods and housing complexes with drug sniffing drugs, just as Florida’s Supreme Court warned that if law enforcement wasn’t stopped, they would have drug dogs sniffing our front doors.  
I haven’t written a brief on this as those fifty profs did, but should the U.S. Supreme Court ask advice from a Clearwater Criminal Defense Lawyer, my solution is simple, just outlaw aspirin, vinegar and American privacy rights and keep our courageous Florida dogs working.


Our United States Supreme Court has granted certiari in Florida v. Harris, No. 11-817, a drug-sniffing dog case, which was featured in this blog in Can Drug Dogs Sniff For Warrantless Searches Outside Vehicles in Florida when the Florida Supreme Court made Aldo, our champion drug sniffer, an international Dog celebrity fawned, sprawled and pawed over at the best dog parks and fire hydrants around the world. 

Aldo the Florida drug sniffing dog whose reliability to find drugs is questioned by the Supreme Court

Aldo is a Dog whose fabulous stardom has hardly been diminished by his sad connection to drugs and the many unsavory characters whom he randomly sniffs, some of whom should be defended by your favorite Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorney

The holding of the Florida Supreme Court to be reviewed and possibly unleashed by the U.S Supreme Court could help a Clearwater Drug Defense Lawyer win Motions to Suppress improperly obtained evidence in Court:

We hold the fact that a drug-detection dog has been trained 
and certified to detect narcotics, standing alone, is not sufficient to demonstrate the reliability of the dog. To demonstrate that an officer has a reasonable basis for believing that an alert by a drug-detection dog is sufficiently reliable to provide probable cause to search, the State must present evidence of the dog’s training and certification records, an explanation of the meaning of the particular training and certification, field performance records (including any unverified alerts), and evidence concerning the experience and training of the officer handling the dog, as well as any other objective evidence known to the officer about the dog’s reliability. The trial court must then assess the reliability of the dog’s alert as a basis for probable cause to search the vehicle based on a totality of the circumstances. Because in this case the totality of the circumstances does not support a probable cause determination, the trial court should have granted the motion to suppress. We remand for proceedings consistent with this
opinion. See also brief from the Florida Attorney Generals office in Harris v. State

Here’s hoping that the dog biscuits a certain Pinellas Criminal Defense Attorney plans to send to the U.S. Supreme Court are enough to sway them toward affirming the Florida Supreme Court’s decision.


The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a drug dog sniffing detection case involving one of our favorite brave and faithful Florida canine friends, named Franky, whose unfortunate occupation is sniffing the front door of Florida homes for drugs so that search warrants can be obtained. The case is from an appeal of the Florida Supreme Court in Florida v. Jardines in which the Florida Court stated that,  “This Court has explained that a dog sniff is not a search because the sole knowledge that the dog obtains by sniffing is the presence of contraband, which a person does not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in possessing in the first place.
It’s my strong belief that Florida Supreme Court is misguided, because a home – not being a public place but in some respects the only private place left for us – should be treated differently than say, an airport – where the immediate safety of all passengers may require greater scrutiny and the use of drug dogs to find drugs or explosives without a warrant. 
The case will resolve the constitutional issue of whether police must have probable cause, that is a strong belief that evidence of a crime exists and that the evidence will be found at the scene, before law enforcement officers can use a drug dog to sniff at the front door of a suspect home which the officers believe is a marijuana grow house (a home that has been converted into a virtual garden for marijuana plants).
Two important probable cause issues will be determined which your favorite Clearwater Drug Defense Attorney believes you’ll find of interest:

(1) Whether a dog sniffing at the front door of a suspected marijuana grow house by a trained narcotics detection dog is a Fourth Amendment search requiring probable cause. 
(2) And Whether the officers’ conduct during the investigation of the marijuana grow house, including remaining outside the house while waiting for the search warrant is in and of itself, a Fourth Amendment search.

This blog earlier discussed probable cause issues with vehicles involving another Drug Dog named Aldo whose sniffing was found by the Florida Supreme Court to not be up to snuff. Should you need expert legal defense have a Clearwater Defense Attorney take a look at your case. 

A Narcotics Detective enjoys teaching Police Dogs how to smell marijuana…

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Andsell Richard, The Lucky Dogs, 1881


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
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Carl Locher with his dog Tiger by Michael Archer, 1909