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Search & Seizure Commentary: A Human Look at Canine Sniffing
By Bruce Baron
On four feet stands man’s best friend. So too, the law of canine sniffing stands on four Supreme Court cases: Terry v. Ohio, United States v. Place, City of Indianapolis v. Edmond, and Illinois v. Caballes.1 These cases put suspicion, searches, seizures, and sniffs in the context of the Fourth Amendment. As the Supreme Court noted, the sniff of a “well-trained narcotics detection dog” is “sui generis.”2 A variety of lower courts have barked up related trees. Knowing about these cases helps to keep canine sniffs rewarding in the here and now.
Terry v. Ohio
Two men hover about a street corner, waiting for no one. Dozens of times, they pace up the block, stare in a store window, and return to their corner to chat. A law enforcement officer of 30 years’ experience suspects that the two are contemplating a daylight robbery. He decides to investigate. The officer lacks probable cause for an arrest, but needs to protect himself, i.e., needs to determine whether the two men are carrying weapons.
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