A Sniff by a Pot-Detecting Dog Requires Probable Cause and Does Not Justify a Search, Says Colorado Supreme Court

Drug-sniffing dogs in states that have legalized marijuana should be worried about their job security in light of a decision that the Colorado Supreme Court issued yesterday. Confirming the 2017 judgment of a state appeals court, the justices said an alert by a dog trained to detect marijuana as well as other drugs no longer provides probable cause for a search in Colorado, where possessing an ounce or less of cannabis has been legal for adults 21 or older since 2012. Furthermore, the court ruled inĀ Colorado v. McKnight, deploying such a dog itself counts as a search and therefore requires probable cause to believe a crime has been committed.

The case involved Kevin McKnight, who in 2015 was pulled over in Craig, Colorado, by Cpl. Bryan Gonzales, ostensibly for failing to signal a turn. Gonzales had been following McKnight because of behavior he deemed suspicious: He saw McKnight’s pickup truck parked the wrong way in an alley near an apartment complex as a man stood by the passenger door. Although Gonzales “saw no behavior consistent with an exchange or transaction,” he followed the truck to “a residence where police had found drugs almost two months earlier, and it remained parked there for approximately fifteen minutes,” during which time no one left the house or the truck. When Gonzales stopped McKnight, he “recognized the passenger as someone who had used methamphetamine ‘at some point in the past,’ but he wasn’t sure how recently.”

Gonzales called Sgt. Courtland Folks of the Moffat County Sheriff’s Office, who arrived with Kilo, a dog trained to bark when he smells marijuana, methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, or MDMA. Kilo barked at the driver’s door, prompting a search that discovered a pipe with methamphetamine residue in a storage compartment under the rear seat. After McKnight was convicted of possessing methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia, he appealed, arguing that Kilo’s barking could not justify a search and that police needed more evidence to use the dog in the first place. The Colorado Supreme Court agreed on both points, overturning his convictions.

The U.S. Supreme Court, whose Fourth Amendment reasoning the Colorado

You can read the rest of this article at: https://reason.com/2019/05/21/a-sniff-by-a-pot-detecting-dog-requires-probable-cause-and-does-not-justify-a-search-says-colorado-supreme-court/