October 2012 Archives

October 26, 2012

Supreme Court To Hear Drug-Sniffing Cases Next Week

The Supreme Court of the United States will hear two drug cases next week specifically related to drug-sniffing dogs. While this is not the first time the Supreme Court will hear a case relating to canine related searches, the justices will decide whether two drug trafficking arrests were legal based on canine searches. The Florida Supreme Court ruled that the searches and subsequent arrests and seizures were unconstitutional. One of the cases being heard comes out of Miami, Florida, while the other case comes out of the panhandle of Florida. The Miami criminal attorney representing the defendant in the first case filed a motion to suppress the dog sniff. The Florida Supreme Court found that the alert was insufficient to establish probable cause to get a warrant. The case arose back in December 5, 2006, when Franky, a chocolate Labrador retriever, was brought to a Miami-Dade residence based on an anonymous tip. Franky sniffed at the front door and alerted to the residence. The police obtained a search warrant based on the alert. Upon executing the warrant, police found a fully functional marijuana grow house and the defendant, Joelis Jardines, was charged with trafficking in marijuana.

The second case arose out of Bristol, Florida. A police officer pulled over a pick-up truck with an expired tag. The defendant, Clayton Harris, acted nervous when approached by the officer. The officer brought his canine, Aldo, a German Shepard, to the vehicle. Aldo alerted next to the driver's front door. Based on the alert, the deputy searched the vehicle and discovered 200 pseudoephedrine pills which is used to manufacture methamphetamines. The criminal lawyer representing Harris also filed a motion to suppress and the search was later ruled unconstitutional by the Florida Supreme Court. In the Jardine's case, the Florida Supreme Court found that, "given the special status accorded a citizen's home under the Fourth Amendment, we conclude that a 'sniff test' is a substantial intrusion into the sanctity of the home and constitutes a search and the search must be preceded by an evidentiary showing of wrongdoing."

The Florida Supreme Court held in the Harris case that, "the prosecution could not prove Aldo's reliability in tracking pseudoephedrine", and set forth rigorous standards to determine if a drug sniffing dog's credentials were sufficient to establish probable cause in drug cases. The United States Supreme court has previously ruled on a couple of unrelated dog sniffing cases, however, the facts are not similar to the cases being heard next week. For example, the Supreme Court ruled in one case that a dog sniff was permissible because the defendant did not have a legitimate privacy claim. The high court has also ruled that a dog sniff is permissible during a traffic stop because traffic stop does not trigger a search under the Fourth Amendment.

The best chance for criminal attorneys and their clients is a Supreme Court case which held that the police use of a thermal imager outside of a home was a search under the fourth amendment and ruled to be unconstitutional. Most predict, however, that the Supreme Court will fall on the side of law enforcement and liken a dog sniff to that of an officer who is able to smell the strong odor of marijuana emanating from an automobile or a residence.

Drug-Sniffing Cases Send Supreme Court to the Dogs, Kansas City Star.com, October 26, 2012.

October 23, 2012

Three Local Cops Fired, But Not Charged With Criminal Offenses

Three police officers from the City of Medley Police Department have been fired from their jobs for their involvement in an alleged cover-up of a traffic accident. Last year, a Miami man was driving to work when a traffic accident occurred involving his vehicle and a Medley police car. Soon after the accident, the man was arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) and cited for failing to yield the right of way. Hialeah police officers arrived to assist the Medley offers and quickly determined that the man arrested was not drunk. The man wrongfully accused of DUI was released and not charged with a criminal offense. Criminal attorneys in Miami that represent the three officers convinced the Miami-Dade County State Attorney's Office that there was insufficient evidence to file criminal charges against the three officers.

Miami-Dade prosecutors investigated accusations of public corruption, but in the end did not find enough evidence to charge the cops with criminal charges. The president of the Miami-Dade Police Benevolent Association said that the firings were baseless, harsh and unfair. An attorney representing one of the officers claimed, "This is a biased witch-hunt and willful violation of every concept of fairness." It is not clear whether the officer will sue the department to get their jobs back or for economic losses as a result of the firing. The police officers involved in the arrest claimed that the man was never placed under arrest. The Medley police chief backed up the firings by claiming that the treatment of man clearly indicated that the man was placed under arrest when he was handcuffed, read Miranda rights and taken to the Hialeah police station.

The officer involved in the accident and the arrest had been involved in three other traffic crashes within the last 18 months. The officer contacted his supervisor and told him the driver's breath smelled of beer. The driver admitted to having two beers earlier in the day, but denied that he was driving under the influence. The officer performed roadside exercises and claimed that the man did not perform to standard and placed him under arrest. The driver was taken to the Hialeah police department and blew .000 twice. The legal limited in DUI cases in the State of Florida is .08. Once the breath results were obtained and the driver was released with only an infraction.

The officers credibility came into question as a result of the independent investigation conducted by a claims adjuster with United Automobile Insurance. The adjuster reported that the facts provided by the officer did not match the information provided in the police reports and the crime scene photographs. Surveillance videos allegedly contradicted one of the officers claims that the driver was traveling at 60 mph when the accident occurred. The officer's supervisor claimed that a civilian witness observed the crash, a fact that was proven not to be true. A police lieutenant, acting a police chief at the time of the arrest, was accused of approving a report that was replete with lies. All of the officers involved were investigated for committing the crimes of unlawful compensation, official misconduct, and insurance fraud. The criminal investigation was closed because the prosecutor reviewing the case found there was insufficient evidence to criminally charge the officers.

Three Florida Cops Ordered Fired for Traffic Accident Cover-Up, Bradenton Herald.com, October 22, 2012.