Skip to content
Name: Florida v. Harris
Case #: 11-817
Court: US Supreme Court
District USSup
Opinion Date: 02/19/2013
Subsequent History: 133 S.Ct. 1050; 185 L.Ed.2d 61

The “alert” of a drug detection dog during a traffic stop provides probable cause to search a vehicle. Harris’s truck was pulled over by a Florida sheriff because his license plate was expired. The officer observed that Harris appeared nervous and he saw an open can of beer in the truck. Harris refused to consent to a search. A canine officer was brought to Harris’s truck and alerted. Based on the alert the sheriff concluded he had probable cause to search the truck. The search yielded methamphetamine manufacturing components; not drugs the dog was trained to detect. Harris was charged with possession of pseudoephedrine for use in manufacturing methamphetamine. Harris’s motion to suppress the evidence was denied at trial and affirmed on appeal. The Florida Supreme Court reversed finding lack of probable cause because the State failed to present adequate data regarding the dog’s training, experience, and certification. Certiorari was granted. Held: Reversed. The strict evidentiary checklist fashioned by the state court is the antithesis of the “totality of the circumstances” test. “[E]vidence of a dog’s satisfactory performance in a certification or training program” may show reliability and establish probable cause. The adequacy of such training and/or certification or the circumstances of a particular alert may be the subject of cross-examination by the defendant. The trial court should examine all of the circumstances surrounding the dog’s alert to determine whether a reasonably prudent person would believe that a search would reveal evidence of a crime. “A sniff is up to snuff when it meets that test” as it did here.