Colorado Supreme Court rules police need probable cause before exploitation pot-sniffing dogs to search for drugs

The Colorado Supreme Court greatly diminished the role of police dogs trained to observe marijuana with a ruling Monday that created some other divide between how state and federal law social control can investigate pot.

In a 4-3 ruling, the Colorado Supreme Court subordinate that, under the state constitution, a dog trained to alert to marijuana cannot be used before an officer establishes probable cause that a crime had been committed.

For decades, police dogs were trained to alert their handlers to the presence of pot. But since Coloradans voted in 2012 to legalize recreational possession of small amounts of the drug, the dogs’ sniff tests have been arguable because they can alert even if a person has a legal amount of marijuana.

Monday’s ruling effectively renders the dogs trained to observe pot futile in most situations, aforementioned Sam Kamin, a law professor at the University of Denver who studies marijuana law and policy. antecedently , the dogs’ sniff tests were used to create probable cause for a search. Now, there has to be enough evidence to authorize a search before a marijuana-trained dog can be used, making the dogs’ sniff tests redundant.

“The dog’s sniff arguably intrudes on a person’s reasonable expectation of privacy in lawful activity,” Supreme Court Justice William Hood wrote in the majority’s decision. “If so, that intrusion must be even by some degree of particularized suspicion of criminal activity.”

Officers exploitation so much K-9s are now subject to the same standards used for other searches of property. Law social control exploitation pot-trained dogs either have to have a warrant before the sniff test or be in one of a handful of situations defined by state law that allows police to complete a search without a warrant.

Even before the court’s decision Monday, Colorado law social control agencies had begun retiring and phasing out marijuana-trained dogs in favor of K-9s not trained to observe that drug. Less than 20 percentage of the about 120 police dogs in Colorado are still trained to observe marijuana.

Brian Laas, an Arvada police officer and president of the Colorado Police K-9 Association, aforementioned Monday morning that he was regular to meet with the Colorado attorney General’s Office that afternoon to discuss the repercussions of the decision. He did not return calls Monday evening.

The Colorado attorney General’s Office was reviewing the decision Monday afternoon.

“We will work with our law social control partners in understanding this decision’s possible implications,” attorney General Phil Weiser aforementioned in a statement.

The decision doesn’t seem out of line with how other state courts treat drug-dog sniff tests, aforementioned David Ferland, executive director of the United States Police Canine Association.

“What Colorado is doing does not surprise me,” Ferland aforementioned. “That’s not going to be earth-shattering.”

There would have been significant repercussions if the court subordinate that all tests conducted by marijuana-trained dogs were constitutional, he aforementioned.

The decision does not apply to federal law social control agencies working in Colorado, like the Drug social control Administration, aforementioned Kamin, the law professor. The decision states that the justices considered the issues only as they apply to the state constitution, meaning the ruling cannot be appealed to the federal courts, he aforementioned.

Three of the court’s seven Judges disin agreement with the majority’s collection and questioned how the decision meshed with the U.S. Constitution and federal law, which still prohibits marijuana in any amount.

The decision is some other example of the complications created by the conflict between state and federal marijuana Torah, Chief Justice Nathan Coats wrote in his dissent, which called the majority’s opinion “deeply flawed.” The ruling creates a system in which a sniff test by a marijuana-trained dog is a search under the state constitution, but not under the federal constitution.

But Hood, the justice who wrote the majority opinion, aforementioned the court had to consider Colorado’s specific Torah.

“To the extent we end up alone on a philosophy island, it is an island on which Colorado voters have deposited us,” he wrote. “Our role is not to question their decision. Rather, it is to apply the logic of existing law to a changing world. Though we are the first court to opine on whether the sniff of a dog trained to observe marijuana in addition to other substances is a search under a state constitution in a state that has legalized marijuana, we probably won’t be the last.”

Kamin aforementioned states often have rules about evidence that differ from federal standards, even outside of marijuana cases.

“I just don’t see the conflict (the dissentient justices) are so worried about,” he aforementioned.

The Colorado Supreme Court case stems from a 2015 incident in Moffat County during which a Craig police officer stopped-up a suspicious truck. The officer then unasked that a K-9 conduct a sniff test of the truck. The Moffat County Sheriff’s Office responded with a dog, kg, that alerted that drugs were inside.

Deputies searched the truck and found a methamphetamine complex complex pipe with some residue. They in remission the driver, Kevin McKnight, who was later condemned of two drug-possession charges.

But kg was trained to alert to marijuana as well as cocaine, heroin, ecstasy and methamphetamine complex complexamphetamine. Police dogs are not trained to give different signals for different drugs.

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McKnight’s attorneys appealed the sentence and argued that the deputies’ search was illegal because kg could have been alerting to the presence of a legal amount of marijuana and the officers didn’t have enough evidence to search the truck otherwise.

The Colorado Supreme Court in agreement, comparison the sniff to technologies so much as thermal-imaging inclination that could show some private, legal activity on with illegal Acts of the Apostles of the Apostles. The court reversed McKnight’s convictions.

“Because there was no way to know whether kg was alerting to lawful marijuana or unlawful contraband, kg’s sniff professoraned McKnight’s reasonable expectation of privacy,” the court’s majority opinion states.