Forfeiture Case Shows Cops Don't Even Need Drug Dogs To Alert To Engage In A Warrantless Search


Another magical drug dog case has surfaced, showing yet again why cops like having “probable cause on four legs” on hand to turn stops into searches and searches into seizures. This forfeiture motion [PDF] — highlighted by Brad Heath — starts with a stop and quickly devolves into ridiculousness.

A drug investigation involving investigators working with ONSET (Ohio Northeast Smuggling Enforcement Team) culminated in the traffic stop of one of the targets, Emmanuel Trujillo Trujillo. Already suspected of drug trafficking, the stop got a whole lot more interesting for officers once some loose cash was spotted.

Deputy Spires approached the pick-up truck and made contact with the driver, Trujillo Trujillo. While speaking with Trujillo Trujillo, Deputy Spires learned that he did not possess a valid driver’s license.

Deputy Spires observed a large amount of United States currency below Trujillo Trujillo’s feet on the floorboard of the pick-up truck and requested assistance from Franklin County, Ohio Sheriff’s Office Canine Unit Deputy Zach Cooper (“Deputy Cooper”) and his canine partner “Indy” to conduct an open-air sniff of the pick-up truck.

Roughly twenty minutes later, the drug dog arrived. And failed to do what the deputies wanted it to do.

Deputy Cooper arrived at the traffic stop at approximately 6:22 p.m. and approached the pick-up truck with canine Indy. Deputy Cooper noticed that Indy showed an extreme change in behavior when sniffing around the passenger side door and its open window. Indy’s sniffing increased as he stayed and intently sniffed the passenger side door area. As the team moved on, Deputy Cooper noted similar behavior from Indy when he approached the tailgate area of the pick-up truck.

There was no alert from Indy. Just a lot of sniffing. But even the lack of an alert wasn’t going to keep these officers from searching Trujillo’s vehicle. Since the four-legged cop wouldn’t give them permission for a search, the deputies decided to give that permission to each other, with Indy’s apparently implicit consent.

Deputy Cooper advised Deputy Spires that Indy did not indicate on a pure odor source, but he believed that Indy’s extreme sniffing behavior indicated that a narcotic odor was present within the pick-up truck.

And with that the search was on. The deputies discovered more cash, receipts for cash transfers, some paperwork from a Chase Manhattan account, and a non-contractor 1099 miscellaneous income form showing $27,815 in compensation to Trujillo. The search did not, however, turn up any drugs, despite the extreme sniffing allegedly demonstrated by the drug dog.

The deputies took $19,104 from Trujillo at this stop. From there, they went to Trujillo’s storage unit and took another $32,050. Finally, law enforcement — using information gleaned from this extreme sniffing — searched Trujillo’s house, where officers found even more cash as well as the drugs the deputies assumed they would find during their initial search of the truck.

And, as if to prove the deputies were right to assume the drug dog had meant to give them explicit permission to search the truck for drugs, there’s this additional information in the forfeiture motion.

TFO Taylor changed gloves, obtained the bag containing the United States currency seized from the pick-up truck, and opened it. TFO Taylor took a MX908 test strip and wiped it on the rubber bands holding the currency together. TFO Taylor placed this test strip into the MX908 and received a positive result for the trace presence of cocaine.

So what? I’ll bet if TFO Taylor borrowed some cash from someone in the HSI (Homeland Security Investigations) office and tested it, he would very likely have rung up another positive result for the trace presence of cocaine. This is an unlisted “feature” of most US currency. A positive test means nothing more than the bill tested has been in circulation.

This is a stop worth challenging. The deputies admitted they did not see an alert from the drug dog before engaging in a search. That means it’s also a seizure worth seizing. And it’s yet another data point showing cops love drug dogs because their mere presence at a stop can be converted into probable cause. Even better, these “partners” can’t offer up testimony that might undercut assertions made by their handlers. Win-win. Apparently, the drug war needs all the wins it can get, even if certain combatants have to obtain them dishonestly.

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Comments on “Forfeiture Case Shows Cops Don't Even Need Drug Dogs To Alert To Engage In A Warrantless Search”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

'Honestly the dog is usually much more well trained...'

When you can’t even get your reasonable cause on four legs to alert on demand… well that had to be embarrassing(if the cops involved were capable of feeling shame), though it certainly didn’t stop them from robbing the victim blind and then doing that several times over afterwards.

This case needs to be tossed and the money returned, and if that means a drug dealer gets away this time then that’ll certainly suck but maybe the bloody police can at least go through the motions of respecting the rights of the public next time rather than the absolute farce they engaged in this time around.

Upstream (profile) says:

Re: Re: 'Honestly the dog is usually much more well trained...'

The "Drug War" has been the most active and most destructive front in the larger war on our rights. The 20 year undeclared war in Afghanistan is being called "America’s Longest War" all over the news. It does not even hold a candle to America’s many-generations-long war on the rights of Americans.

Tanner Andrews (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: 'Honestly the dog is usually much more well trained.

The 20 year undeclared war in Afghanistan is being called "America’s Longest War" all over the news

Some people cannot do math. We have been at war in Korea since 1950, and there is no sign that it is going to end in the next few weeks Shooting heats up and cools down, but the war continues in its seventh decade. Calling the debacle in Afghanistan “longest” seems a bit of an exaggeration.

Lostinlodos (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 'Honestly the dog is usually much more well trai

Calling {Korea} “longest” seems a bit of an exaggeration.

Korea! That’s still short. Here’s another of my ‘history is fun’ lessons.

See, there are a few wars, actually militarily declared wars, far longer, and technically still ongoing, than Korea.
At the shortest, looking at 1776 as our founding, we have wars that are 245 years old.

If you use rollover methodology (eg CCCP->Russia) and consistency of government then the wars of the colonies are RO, USA wars by default continuation. So some of these wars are ongoing since the mid-1600s.
On that we have 350+ year wars.

Black Wolf
Southern Cherokee

See, we declared war. As a country, or as a colony.
We then slaughtered every last one of them (or nearly, few survivors merged into other tribes and were lost till recent uprisings of the 1950s-2010s). They are now fight by pen in court rather than by axe and arrow.

With no know survivors and and no treaties, the war continues.
Some are unlikely to ever end officially. Such as the Black Wolf tribe of Kentucke are still at war with Virginia (from which Kentucky was split from). Which fight by court from the western reservations of Virginia today.

So Afghanistan, Korea? No.
Even the whole of the Thai-Viet operations (1942-1986), short.
Virginia declared war against the Black Wolf tribe in 1621.
A decade and a half after the King’s Charter.

400 years.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: 'Honestly the dog is usually much more well trained...'

When has arresting drug dealers actually made us safer?

Never. The drug war makes drugs more expensive, and cities more dangerous. This former drug cop said his department did a huge operation and arrested a ton of dealers, and found they interrupted the drug trade in that city for a total of two hours.

Wyrm (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: 'Honestly the dog is usually much more well trained.

Actually, that’s a pretty bad argument against the drug war.
Let’s shift it a little: even by arresting a ton of murderers, we never managed to stop murders. So should we stop arresting them?

Better arguments can be about the foundation of the relevant laws. (Which were mostly made to target black people through the drug that were mostly used by them, or at least so was the perception of it at the time).
Or the unequal enforcement of said laws. (black people being arrested way more and convicted more successfully than white people even when statistics show that they are, in proportion, equally guilty.)
Or the excessive means used to enforce them, both legal and illegal ones. (abuse of force, fabrication of evidence, reversing the burden of proof, entrapment…)

Just stating that catching dealers doesn’t help isn’t a good point in my opinion.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 'Honestly the dog is usually much more well trai

Let’s shift it a little: even by arresting a ton of murderers, we never managed to stop murders. So should we stop arresting them?

If arresting murderers resulted in:

  • no significant drop in murders
  • an increase in other violent crimes
  • enormous amounts of public funds spent
  • murder cartels being enriched

Then yes, I would say we should stop arresting murderers.

Just stating that catching dealers doesn’t help isn’t a good point in my opinion.

What more reason do you need beyond that it does nothing whatsoever to solve the problem it’s supposed to stop, makes things much worse for many people in many measurable ways, and costs huge amounts of money? If the drug war were actually successful at stopping the drug trade, it would be a different conversation. The drug trade continues, but now it’s extremely violent. Why are you in favor of this?

Lostinlodos (profile) says:

Re: Re: 'Honestly the dog is usually much more well trained...'

When it was about what started it.

History is so easily forgotten.
The history of the drug trade had nothing to do with cities (formally called urban areas), or skin colour.

It started post prohibition. When liquor became legal again the gangs (mob Families) switched from liquor to opium. Then other drugs as they became available. Speakeasy’s became opium dens.
In the sixties the intelligence groups of the government had to find ways to support ground rebels indirectly.

So for instance OoI would buy a few thousand in drugs, and the OSP would then sell the rebels weapons.
That left the pre-cia with tonnage of drugs. Since the families were the primary source of the drug trade they hit back by dumping cheaper cleaner drugs into the areas the families operated. Cities.
They hired local residents, and became king makers.
The goal was yet again to cut off the families.
Which they did for a time. The kings intelligence created grew powerful enough to create their own ties to the sources. Without intelligence.
This left the alphabet with drugs they couldn’t move and couldn’t store.

So they clauses out a method of creating a war on drugs that was a side element for the then war on crime. Neither Jonson nor Nixon had taken office to destroy minorities. They were handed modified paper that lead to doing what the alphabet couldn’t.

Much like Islamic terrorism is a byproduct of the alphabet fighting communism: so is the inner city drug issue.

See, the alphabet hired local minorities directly under the boot heal of the Italians.
Minorities with low level criminal rings.
Blacks, Mexicans, even Greeks.
Sometimes they oversupplied different families in the same region.
The goal was to take down the mafia.

The issue was the kings went into business for themselves. First by going to the suppliers and cutting out the alphabet. They hired other local minorities. They became rich and powerful.

By the 80s when the alphabet was arming Islamic hardliners around the world the gangs of the US had worked themselves up into mega corporations that were off the books.
The alphabet set up over powering one group, hoping to snuff out the others. One group is easier to kill of than a dozen.
They shoved cops and VN vets into police positions. Created shell shocked killing parties.
These people are racist by standard, they hate everyone not them. That’s how we got the king assault.
War torn power tripping madmen.
Silver spoon racially united gangs.

All of this is well documented in books and documentaries since the lat 90s.

Speakeasies became opium dens. Became flop houses. Became stash houses.

All to stop the Italian intrusion. Exacerbated by the Christian crusade against communism.
Racial aspects are byproducts.

The whole things is a mess.

And like every problem in this country, the beginnings are found in religious concern.
Here: The evils of the liquor.

Tanner Andrews (profile) says:

Re: 'Honestly the dog is usually much more well trained...'

if that means a drug dealer gets away this time then that’ll certainly suck

Actually, it is a benefit to society. The fewer of them we have to pay to imprison, the lower our tax burden for feeding them. Also, as more of them avoid prison, the price comes down due to lessened risk, reducing the need for knock-on crimes which support expensive drug habits.

Daydream says:

Strangest thing, I wonder if these cops think they’re like PCs in an RPG, or strategy game, or whichever.

Here is driver, he is a drug dealer who has cash, let’s take it off him.
Standard strat, initiate a stop, blah blah blah, have the drug dog ‘detect’ drugs, use that as cause to take his money away, job done.
…Huh, there’s a glitch, we ‘know’ there’s drugs but the dog isn’t responding, nevermind, just skip to the next bit and take the money, things’ll sort themselves out.
Oh, a challenge to the seizure, figures. Stupid random events.

David says:

Kind of ridiculous

A drug dog that is doing a lot of sniffing is doing its job. If it cannot be bothered to sniff around when being told to, it’s not a drug dog. After all, its training (assuming it has not yet been diluted to the point of uselessness by job rewards not in line with what its training should be aiming for) should tell it that it will be rewarded if it can find any actual drugs. But not otherwise.

I mean, neighbors may say "they got police officers sniffing around him an unduly amount, they must be criminal". But that kind of deduction is not really probably cause police can use themselves.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Kind of ridiculous

A federal court ruled that a drug only being accurate 43% of the time is perfectly fine.

Drug dogs should be banned entirely. They are far worse than worthless.

David says:

Re: Re: Kind of ridiculous

Pro tip: if something you think of while reading a post is not actually related to the post at all other than being related to the same article, don’t use the "reply" button. Instead use the general "Add Your Comment" box at the bottom of the comments. That helps keeping the discussion better organised.

Point in case, I know, I know.

David says:

Re: Re: Kind of ridiculous

Well, it certainly might have indicated that the dog would just have loved to find something. Possibly because its handlers would just have loved to find something.

Which points to a mismatch of the selection, training and testing conditions of drug dogs with the actual requirements in the field.

Dogs are selected and trained to locate and pinpoint drugs while the requirements in the field are barking on command.

Like college graduates starting a job, the question is how well the dogs can adapt to the actual requirements in the workplace, and there is a good chance that those with the best grades have a harder time adapting.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Kind of ridiculous

Like college graduates starting a job, the question is how well the dogs can adapt to the actual requirements in the workplace, and there is a good chance that those with the best grades have a harder time adapting.

This depends, frankly. There’s a school of thought that believes the best test performers are more rigid in their processes, and then there’s another school of thought that believes that the best test-takers with a multidisciplinary, general knowledge background clearly must also be just as adaptable in real-world conditions.

Really, the best takeaway people can get out of this is that good grades, or a lack thereof, are a shitty method for predicting workplace outcomes. If the company has a poor system for on-boarding newcomers, anyone would flounder whether it’s due to weak discipline or a single-track way of thinking, but frankly companies have always fucked graduates over when it comes to laying out expectations.

Anonymous Coward says:

fruit of the poisonous tree

the dog failed to find anything! that should have been the end of it! but the the roadside pirates disguised as the blue lie mafia decided that there victims money was drug money even though they found a paper trail to explain where it came from! then to add insult to injury, these blue lies mafia criminals raid a storage unit and his house looking for drugs!
due to the FAILED search from the traffic stop and the illegal forfeiture out the gate. any other searches should be suspect! and ANY other cases that involve this crack drug hound team should be looked at with many of , if not all thrown out!
with all of the police misconduct it this case, the victim has a slam dunk case worth a healthy payout!

Lostinlodos (profile) says:

Dogs, and burgers

I was pulled over once around 2am. No reasoning why. Dash cam with speed speed and gps stamping. Not speeding!

I’d happened to be half way through my last Wendy’s burger when it happened.
He asked where I was headed
-I 80

Said I was lost
-18 miles to go to the ramp officer.

Said a dog would be testing the car
Dog hits. Duh. Bacon.

Demanded out, dog goes in.
Back seat
Front driver, (oh bacon) sorta.
Trunk, nothing.
Open passenger door.

Dog has a hit, what are you hauling?
“Bacon double stacks”

“Dog is trained to ignore food”
“Your dog is eating my foil wrappers, officer”.

A few tugs on the leash the dog, and the rest of my burger, are heading back to the squad suv.
I’m told to obey the speed limits and leave.

You know, I support the police. To some degree random stops included.
But cops need to understand that no one, human or animal,
Is 100% trained.

As a side note, nobody can ignore bacon. I’ve seen vegans smile at the smell.

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