Tag Archives: Drug Dog

Vermont Police No Longer Training K9s to Detect Marijuana

A report from the Barre-Montpelier Times Argus revealed that Vermont’s police force has stopped training its police dogs to detect the odor of marijuana.

According to the Times Argus, this is the first year that marijuana detection has not been part of the regular training of the state’s police dogs. The paper reported that the decision was partially influenced by the likelihood that Vermont will legalize marijuana in the near future, which would lead to the possibility that re-training police dogs to cease detecting marijuana would exhaust additional time and resources.

Montpelier Police Chief Anthony Facos explained that if Vermont legalizes marijuana, “All local and state dogs would need to be replaced at significant cost to the state police and to municipalities that would have to get new dogs that were not trained to alert for marijuana.”

Robert Ryan, the K-9 training coordinator in Vermont, noted that “if for some reason it doesn’t become legalized, it’s an odor that (dogs) can be trained to alert on later.”

Dogs currently trained to detect marijuana would still be used in the state for regulatory purposes such as searches at high schools and prisons, and also for police work at the federal level.

Vermont’s legalization bill continued to move forward on Friday, as the Senate Finance Committee approved the bill 6-1.

The bill, sponsored by Democrat Sen. Jeanette K. White, would legalize the possession of marijuana for individuals over the age of 21, and implement a “controlled system of licensed marijuana cultivation sites, testing facilities, and retail stores,” according to MyChamplainValley.com.

The Burlington Free Press reported that the Finance Committee decided to propose a 25 per cent tax for marijuana, and changed the original proposed legal amount of possession from one ounce to a half-ounce.

The Times Argus reported that the state Senate may vote on the bill as soon as next week.

SCOTUS: Police Violated Fourth Amendment By Using Drug Dog To Prolong Traffic Stop

On Tuesday, the United States Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that a Nebraska police officer violated the Fourth Amendment in the case of Rodriguez v. United States, when he made a driver wait an extra eight minutes during a traffic stop while a drug dog sniffed the outside of his car. 

We hold that a police stop exceeding the time needed to handle the matter for which the stop was made violates the Constitution’s shield against unreasonable seizures,” wrote Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, on behalf of the Court.

The ruling states that without reasonable suspicion, “police extension of a traffic stop in order to conduct a dog sniff” violates the Fourth Amendment.

The incident surrounding the case occurred in 2012 when Dennys Rodriguez was pulled over for driving on the shoulder of a Nebraska highway by Officer Struble and issued a warning. The traffic stop was then prolonged when Struble asked to let a drug dog sniff around the car. Rodriguez refused, and Struble called for back up.

The Hill reported that while the entire traffic stop lasted less than 30 minutes, the dog did detect drugs in Rodriguez’ vehicle, and he was indicted for possessing methamphetamine.

According to the Supreme Court’s ruling, an officer’s mission during a traffic stop should include deciding whether or not to issue a traffic ticket, checking the driver’s license, determining whether there are outstanding warrants against the driver, and inspecting the automobile’s registration and proof of insurance, and because it does not have the same “close connection to roadway safety as the ordinary inquiries,” letting a drug dog sniff the vehicle “is not fairly characterized as part of the officer’s traffic mission.”

Justice Clarence Thomas was one of the three who disagreed with the ruling, and in his dissenting opinion, he said that the ruling takes a view on the Fourth Amendment that “makes little sense,” because it states that Struble “committed a constitutional violation” when he “made Rodriguez wait for seven or eight extra minutes until a dog arrived.”

Had Officer Struble arrested, handcuffed, and taken Rodriguez to the police station for his traffic violation, he would have complied with the Fourth Amendment,” Thomas wrote.

Reason.com noted that Justice Sonia Sotomayor “previewed the Court’s skepticism towards the police officer’s approach” during an oral argument in the case in Jan. 2015.

We can’t keep bending the Fourth Amendment to the resources of law enforcement,” Sotomayor said. “Particularly when this stop is not incidental to the purpose of the stop. It’s purely to help the police get more criminals, yes. But then the Fourth Amendment becomes a useless piece of paper.”