In Jacksonville, police often use trained drug detection dogs to detect illegal drugs in vehicles. Usually, the canine (K9) walks around the vehicle and signals if it senses the illegal substance. Then, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office will search the vehicle. When a Jacksonville drug detection dog search is conducted, police officers must comply with certain procedures and standards.
Jacksonville Florida is in the First District. In April of 2011, the Florida Supreme Court addressed a First District Court case regarding K9 searches (See Harris v. Florida, 36 Fla. L. Weekly S163a). The Florida Supreme Court stated:
“The issue of when a dog’s alert provides probable cause for a search hinges on the dog’s reliability as a detector of illegal substances within the vehicle. We hold that the State may establish probable cause by demonstrating that the officer had a reasonable basis for believing the dog to be reliable based on the totality of the circumstances. Because a dog cannot be cross-examined like a police officer on the scene whose observations often provide the basis for probable cause to search a vehicle, the State must introduce evidence concerning the dog’s reliability. In this case, we specifically address the question of what evidence the State must introduce in order to establish the reasonableness of the officer’s belief — in other words, what evidence must be introduced in order for the trial court to adequately undertake an objective evaluation of the officer’s belief in the dog’s reliability as a predicate for determining probable cause.”
The Florida Supreme Court held that:
“the fact that a drug-detection dog has been trained and certified to detect narcotics, standing alone, is not sufficient to demonstrate the reliability of the dog. To demonstrate that an officer has a reasonable basis for believing that an alert by a drug-detection dog is sufficiently reliable to provide probable cause to search, the State must present evidence of the dog’s training and certification records, an explanation of the meaning of the particular training and certification, field performance records (including any unverified alerts), and evidence concerning the experience and training of the officer handling the dog, as well as any other objective evidence known to the officer about the dog’s reliability. The trial court must then assess the reliability of the dog’s alert as a basis for probable cause to search the vehicle based on a totality of the circumstances.”
Recently, this issue came before another Florida Appellate Court in Wiggs v. Florida, 36 Fla. L. Weekly D1688a (Fla. 2nd DCA 2011).