New Colorado marijuana law addresses future of drug-sniffing dogs
Colorado’s Supreme Court on Monday ruled 4-3 that a sniff of a car by police dogs trained to smell for marijuana in addition to other drugs constitutes a search — which is a big deal that doesn’t really sink in at first.
To search someone’s car, police need evidence of a crime. When the case was argued before the court late last year, lots of the talk focused on whether an alert from a pot-trained dog was enough to give police reason to dig through someone’s car looking for drugs. After all, if possession of small amounts of marijuana is now legal, how does the officer know that the dog is barking because it smells a crime?
But the majority in this case — named People v. McKnight, after a guy whose car was searched in Craig because of the bark of a police dog that was a holdover from pre-legalization days — went further. The justices said simply bringing out a pot-trained dog to sniff around now constitutes a search, in and of itself. As in, it’s something that police have to have evidence in order to do.
“The dog’s sniff arguably intrudes on a person’s reasonable expectation of privacy in lawful activity,” Justice William Hood wrote in the majority’s ruling. “If so, that intrusion must be justified by some degree of particularized suspicion of criminal activity.”
Support Local Journalism
But, if police already have probable cause, they would most likely just search the car directly, themselves. Hence, this ruling almost certainly puts Colorado’s pot-trained police dogs into retirement.
Read more via The Colorado Sun.
The Colorado Sun is a reader-supported news organization dedicated to covering the people, places and policies that matter in Colorado. Read more, sign up for free newsletters and subscribe at coloradosun.com.
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Grand County make the Sky-Hi News' work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.