In horse racing, you regularly hear the expression that the “horse won by a nose”. Have you ever heard of a criminal defendant who tried to get a drug charge dismissed because of a nose? That’s the story of the case styled United States v. Greene.
One morning in March, a state trooper in Roanoke activated his lights to stop a car that was traveling with excessively tinted windows and a partially obscured license plate. The patrol car camera fully documented the traffic stop.
After the car had stopped, the trooper contacted his partner to assist by bringing their drug dog to the scene. During a “free air sniff”, the dog alerted the troopers to the rear passenger panel. A search revealed a duffle bag that contained over a kilogram of cocaine and $7,000. Based on that stop and find, a grand jury indicted the driver for possession with intent to distribute.
The defendant’s attorney initially moved to suppress the drugs and cash from introduction into evidence, based on a challenge of the traffic stop. The Judge ruled against that argument of suppression and determined that the basis for the inital traffic stop was reasonable.
At the next hearing, a second defense attorney now retained, filed a motion to challenge the reliability of the dog. The two troopers testified about the dog’s training, years of experience and his annual certification. In addition, they testified that in field training, the dog had been 100% accurate.
The evidence did show that, in the field, the dog had missed detecting marijuana once and had registered 44 out of 45 in alerting to narcotics. Yes… he missed once.
Based on prior caselaw in the Federal 4th Circuit (US v. Wu), the Court ruled that it was not persuaded by the controlled environment trooper training of the dog; but did believe that the field performance rendered the dog’s reliability within “fair probability”. That opinion came out on June 28, 2012 which means that the case now proceeds with that evidence.
As a sidenote, I did smell popcorn in the office the other day… but I digress.
For pic o’ day, I thought I’d go with a cat who just got caught:
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