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K-9s Alerting to Search Only Need Training

Yesterday, February 19, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision that K-9 alerts for searches need only have detection training. In the Florida vs. Harris decision, the high Court overturned the decision of the Florida Supreme Court that required the government to admit evidence of the certification and past track record of the K-9 in order to show reliability. The U.S. Supreme Court determined that a totality of circumstances, instead of any specific requirements, were necessary to determine whether probable cause to search a vehicle existed. In the Harris decision, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that documents reflecting merely that the dog was trained to alert to the presence of contraband were sufficient, by themselves, to believe probable cause existed to believe illegal drugs were present.

So, now, the government need only show a K-9's training records in order to support probable cause. The previous burden for the government to show more to establish a K-9's reliability has now shifted to the defense to show that the training or dog's past record reflects a lack of reliabilty in its behavior to alert to alleged contraband. Now, we Woodland Hills criminal defense attorneys will have to insist on discovery of certain further training records, logs and to use expert witnesses to properly evaluate whether the K-9's training for sniffing was up to snuff (blame Justice Kagan for that little quip; she used it in the case opinion).

What do you think?