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Drug-sniffing dogs can be used at traffic stops, high court rules
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court gave police broader search powers Monday during traffic stops, ruling that drug-sniffing dogs can be used to check out motorists even if officers have no reason to suspect they may be carrying narcotics.
In a 6-2 decision, the court sided with Illinois police who stopped Roy Caballes in 1998 along Interstate 80 for driving 6 miles over the speed limit. Although Caballes lawfully produced his driver's license, troopers brought over a drug dog after Caballes seemed nervous.
Caballes argued the Fourth Amendment protects motorists from searches such as dog sniffing, but Justice John Paul Stevens disagreed, reasoning that the privacy intrusion was minimal.
"The dog sniff was performed on the exterior of respondent's car while he was lawfully seized for a traffic violation. Any intrusion on respondent's privacy expectations does not rise to the level of a constitutionally cognizable infringement," Stevens wrote.
In a dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg bemoaned what she called the broadening of police search powers, saying the use of drug dogs will make routine traffic stops more "adversarial." She was joined in her dissent in part by Justice David H. Souter.
"Injecting such animal into a routine traffic stop changes the character of the encounter between the police and the motorist. The stop becomes broader, more adversarial and (in at least some cases) longer," she wrote.
Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist did not participate in consideration of the case.
The case is Illinois v. Caballes, 03-923.