We start off our picks this week with a dog sniff case from the Supreme Court. A side note that several opinions came down from the High Court this week – to check them all out go to Justia’s Supreme Court Center , or sign up for our USSC Summary Newsletter.
Florida v. Harris, US Supreme Court (2/19/13)
Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law
Officer Wheetley pulled Harris over for a routine traffic stop. Wheetley sought consent to search Harris’s truck, based on Harris’s nervousness and seeing an open beer can. When Harris refused, Wheetley executed a sniff test with his trained narcotics dog, Aldo, who alerted at the driver’s-side door, leading Wheetley to conclude that he had probable cause to search. The search turned up nothing Aldo was trained to detect, but did reveal ingredients for manufacturing methamphetamine. Harris was charged with illegal possession of those ingredients. In a subsequent stop while Harris was out on bail, Aldo again alerted on Harris’s truck but nothing of interest was found. The trial court denied a motion to suppress. The Florida Supreme Court reversed, holding that if an officer failed to keep records of field performance, including how many times a dog falsely alerted, he could never have probable cause to think the dog a reliable indicator of drugs. The Supreme Court reversed. Training and testing records supported Aldo’s reliability in detecting drugs and Harris failed to undermine that evidence, so Wheetley had probable cause to search. Whether an officer has probable cause depends on the totality of the circumstances, not rigid rules, bright-line tests, and mechanistic inquiries. Requiring the state to introduce comprehensive documentation of a dog’s prior hits and misses in the field is the antithesis of a totality-of-the-circumstances approach. Field records may sometimes be relevant, but the court should evaluate all the evidence, and should not prescribe an inflexible set of requirements.
Supreme Court Sides with Drug Sniffing Dog
And for Fun – Check out Jake the German Shepherd. The newest member of Justia’s Dog Pack! :)
Aqua Log Inc. v. Lost and Abandoned Pre-Cut Logs and Rafts of Logs, US 11th Cir. (2/15/13)
Admiralty & Maritime Law, Real Estate & Property Law
These consolidated appeals concerned segments of two Georgia waterways, the Flint River and Spring Creek. Aqua Log, a company that finds, removes, and sells submerged logs, brought three in rem actions seeking a salvage award for the logs submerged at the bottom of the waterways or, in the alternative, an award of title to the logs based on the American Law of Finds. Because the segments of the Flint River and Spring Creek at issue in these cases were capable of supporting commercial activity, they were navigable waters for admiralty-jurisdiction purposes. The court therefore held that the district court erred in concluding that the waterways were not navigable and dismissing the cases for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings.
Sowers v. Forest Hills Subdivision, Nevada Supreme Court (2/14/13)
Injury Law, Real Estate & Property Law
Respondents sought to permanently enjoin their neighbor, Appellant, from constructing a wind turbine on his residential property, asserting that the proposed turbine would constitute a nuisance. The district court agreed and granted the permanent injunction. The Supreme Court affirmed the order granting a permanent injunction prohibiting the wind turbine’s construction, holding (1) the aesthetics of a wind turbine alone are not grounds for finding a nuisance, but a nuisance in fact may be found when the aesthetics are combined with other factors, such as noise, shadow flicker, and diminution in property value; and (2) substantial evidence supported the district court’s finding that the proposed residential wind turbine would be a nuisance in fact.
Read More: Nevada Supreme Court Blocks Wind Turbine
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