Florida V. Harris: "Free Air Sniff"

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Florida v. Harris: “Free air sniff”

On June 24th, 2006, an officer from Liberty County, Florida, Sheriff’s office (Officer William Wheetley) made a traffic stop after noticing an expired license plate on a man named Clayton Harris’ truck. After making the stop, Officer Wheetley noticed that Harris appeared to be nervous. In addition, Officer Wheetley spotted an open beer can inside the vehicle. Officer Wheetley then requested to search Harris’ truck. Harris refused to cooperate leaving Officer Wheetley no choice but to send his drug-detection dog (Aldo) to conduct a “free-air sniff”. After the “free-air sniff”, the dog alerted to the driver-side door of Harris’ truck. After the alert, Officer Wheetley then searched the truck finding narcotics in Harris’ possession. These narcotics consisted of: Two hundred pseudoephedrine pills, eight thousand matches, and muratic acid. Officer Wheetley recognized these materials as substance to the drug methamphetamine. The state of Florida charged Clayton Harris in violation of Florida Statute 893.149(1)(a), (unlawful possession of listed chemical). Harris argued that Officer Wheetley did not have a credible cause to conduct a search. Harris then commenced evidence supporting his position that Aldo was an unreliable drug-detection dog due to another stop made by Officer Wheetley two months later. Aldo again alerted to the driver-side door but Officer Wheetley was unable to recover any illegal drugs. Officer Wheetley testified on behalf of his and Aldo’s training and certification. After hearing Officer Wheetley’s testimony, the trial court concluded that there was probable cause for the search and denied the suppression motion. The Florida First District Court of Appeal confirmed the lower court’s holding. The Florida Supreme Court reversed; claiming that the evidence retrieved from Harris’ truck should have been suppressed. The court asserts that the reliability of a trained drug-detection dog is not itself a searched and...
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