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The Champion

April 2012 , Page 22 

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Police K-9's and the Constitution: What Every Lawyer and Judge Should Know

By Jeff Weiner

Positive K-9 “alerts” are treated as per se probable cause in most states and in the federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, when the

K-9 is assumed to be “trained” and “reliable.”1 The terms “trained,” “reliable,” and “certified” appear repeatedly in judicial opinions handed down over the years relating to dog sniffs. Following United States v. Place,2 the courts, with few exceptions, have demonstrated a lack of understanding of what these concepts actually mean in the real world, and an entrenched disinclination to look beyond the fact that the dog’s handler testified to the occurrence of an alert and that the dog was “trained” and “certified.”3 

Judges and justices have been all too eager to blindly accept affidavits from officer/handlers stating that their dog was “trained” or “certified” and that their dog “alerted” to justify a warrantless search or a basis for the issuance of a search warrant. The reality is, much of the “training” is inadequate and t

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