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For one criminal defendant, the reaction of a drug dog was the tipping point that gave law enforcement probable cause for the dog's sniff search, at least according to the Eighth Circuit.
That sniff search was successful in locating a few kilograms of cocaine, which resulted in the defendant taking a conditional plea of guilt to a drug trafficking charge, pending resolution of an appeal of his motion to suppress. And in the United States v. Javier Pulido-Ayala, the Eighth Circuit rejected that defendant's appeal on his Fourth Amendment challenge to the drug dog's sniff search.
The facts surrounding the search provided by the court are not lacking in complexity. Pulido-Ayala was pulled over after frantically exiting the highway, turning around and heading back the opposite direction, upon seeing a sign for a police drug checkpoint. When he pulled over, he was asked to exit the vehicle. When the canine unit arrived, Pulido-Ayala's passenger was asked if he'd like to leave the vehicle, to which he agreed.
Unfortunately, the passenger left the car door open. And as the drug dog, aptly named Jampy, approached the car, he became very excited, lunged and jumped into the open car door. And while the court agreed with the defendant that the dog's actions constituted a search, it did not agree that there was not probable cause.
The court reasoned that the dog lunging for the car, before it actually jumped in the car, provided officers with the last bit of evidence to support an independent, objective finding of probable cause.