Massachusetts law about drug detection dogs

Cases, web and print sources on the use of drug sniffing dogs or canines.

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Selected cases

Carey v. Commissioner of Corrections, 479 Mass. 367 (2018)
Dept. of Correction implemented a policy to subject visitors to correctional facilities who are not attorneys to search by drug-detecting dogs.  Policy was not inconsistent with existing Dept.’s regulations, however, the Dept. failed to follow requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). Remanded to Superior Court "for entry of a judgment declaring that the department was required to, but did not, meet the requirements of the APA when it adopted this regulation, but that such a regulation, if properly adopted in conformance with the APA, would not conflict with existing department regulations." See 103 CMR 483.13.

Florida v. Harris, 568 U.S. 237, 133 S.Ct. 1050 (2013)
"The question—similar to every inquiry into probable cause—is whether all the facts surrounding a dog’s alert, viewed through the lens of common sense, would make a reasonably prudent person think that a search would reveal contraband or evidence of a crime. A sniff is up to snuff when it meets that test... Because training and testing records supported Aldo’s reliability in detecting drugs and Harris failed to undermine that evidence, Wheetley had probable cause to search Harris’s truck.”

Florida v. Jardines, 569 U.S. 1, 133 S.Ct. 1409 (2013)
A dog sniff on the front porch of a private home is a search within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment.

United States v. Place, 462 U.S. 696, 103 S. Ct. 2637 (1983)
"…the sniff discloses only the presence or absence of narcotics, a contraband item. Thus, despite the fact that the sniff tells the authorities something about the contents of the luggage, the information obtained is limited….In these respects, the canine sniff is sui generis. We are aware of no other investigative procedure that is so limited both in the manner in which the information is obtained and in the content of the information revealed by the procedure. Therefore, we conclude that the particular course of investigation that the agents intended to pursue here -- exposure of respondent's luggage, which was located in a public place, to a trained canine -- did not constitute a "search" within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment."

Illinois v. Caballes, 543 U.S. 405, 125 S. Ct. 834, 838 (2005)
Court reaffirmed precedent set in U. S. v Place. "Dog sniff conducted during a concededly lawful traffic stop that reveals no information other than the location of a substance that no individual has a right to possess does not violate the Fourth Amendment."

U. S. v. Grupee 682 F.3d 143 (1st Cir. 2012)
Defendant argued that affidavit in support of search warrant was insufficient because no information was given about the dog's capacity to alert reliably and without excessive false positives, it merely indicated that the dog was a Mass. State Police drug detection dog. Justice Souter opined "…The reasonableness of relying on the behavior of a police dog depends on what one knows about the dog and the person who handles it, ..., and the police can provide this sort of information in a readily available résumé of general certification standards and particular performance statistics, dog by dog, to be attached to a warrant application on a moment's notice. .. parsimonious though this disclosure was, we think it passes muster under existing circuit precedent on searches authorized by warrant, which holds that describing a drug detection dog as 'trained' and in the company of a drug detection agent is sufficient to allow a magistrate 'reasonably [to] infer' that a trained law enforcement dog has 'attained a high degree of proficiency in detecting the scent of narcotics.' "

Comm. v. Feyenord, 445 Mass. 72 (2005)
Court upheld police officer's decision to summon drug-detection dog unit during routine motor vehicle stop despite lacking drug-related suspicion "A dog sniff is not a search under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, see Illinois v. Caballes, 543 U.S. 405, 160 L. Ed. 2d 842, 125 S. Ct. 834, 837-838 (2005); United States v. Place, 462 U.S. 696, 707, 77 L. Ed. 2d 110, 103 S. Ct. 2637 (1983), and the court correctly concludes that a dog sniff of the exterior of an automobile is likewise not a search within the meaning of art. 14 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights." (Greaney, J., concurring).

Commonwealth v. Judge, 100 Mass. App. Ct. 817 (2022)
Defendant’s motion to suppress evidence found during a strip search was denied.  The Court ruled that the drug detection dog’s alert was enough to establish probable cause for the defendant to be strip searched.

Comm. v. Lawson, 79 Mass. App. Ct. 322 (2011)
Defendant's motion to suppress marijuana found in car was denied. "The defendant argues that there was no justification for a search for narcotics or to search the interior of the vehicle with a drug-sniffing dog. We disagree. Here, where the defendant was unable to provide a valid driver's license, demonstrated nervous behavior, possessed a large bundle of cash, had multiple air fresheners in the vehicle, and had a record of prior arrests for drug distribution, there was probable cause to search the vehicle, with or without a drug-sniffing dog."

Comm. v. Negron, 29 Mass L Rep 483 (2012)
[This case is not available online, but may be requested for no charge from our Document Delivery service]. Defendants motion to suppress evidence obtained by a detection dog's interior search of a vehicle was allowed. "… the temporary detention of the Nissan for purposes of its examination by a drug-sniffing dog was reasonable given the facts in hand… However, with that examination resulting in no 'alert' by K-9 Mattie, the police had no further evidence upon which to base probable cause affirmatively to search the vehicle… A K-9 dog must indicate there are drugs before police allow it to enter a vehicle, barring some other legal justification."

Web sources

Owsley, Brian, "The Supreme Court goes to the dogs: reconciling Florida v. Harris and Florida v. Jardines" 77 Albany Law Review 349 (2013–14).

Phipps, Taylor, "Probable cause on a leash" 23 BU Pub Int L J 57 (2014).

Print sources

Criminal procedure Massachusetts police manual 2021: the Massachusetts police reference for criminal procedure, Law Enforcement Dimensions. Chapter 5: Encounters, stops & threshold inquires. 

Drug cases Massachusetts police manual 2021: the Massachusetts police reference for narcotics law & procedure, Law Enforcement Dimensions. Chapter 12: K-9 operations.

Hagerman, Andy. "Sniffing for answers: Florida v. Jardines, drug-detecting canines, and the case for a normative approach to fourth amendment activity for sense-enhancing devices," University of Louisville law review vol. 55, no. 2 (2017): p. 203-228. May be requested for no charge from our document delivery service.

Search and seizure: a treatise on the fourth amendment, 6th ed., Thomson Reuters, 2020 with supplement.  Section 2.2(g) Use of canine to detect drugs, etc. pp. 714-741.

Suppression matters under Massachusetts law, annual, LexisNexis. Section 3-5[g] Expectation of privacy – drug sniffing dogs – dog sniffs of the person – dog sniffs around residential property. 

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Last updated: September 5, 2023

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