Oklahoma authorities closely watching drug dog case

Monday, December 6th 2004, 6:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Authorities in Oklahoma are watching closely as the U.S. Supreme Court considers a case that challenges the way a drug-sniffing dog was used during a traffic stop in Illinois.

The Supreme Court has heard oral arguments in the case in which Roy Caballes was stopped five years ago. An officer was writing him a warning until a dog sniffed out $250,000 worth of drugs in the car's trunk.

Attorneys for Caballes, contend police needed a reasonable suspicion that he was hiding drugs in his car to run a drug dog outside it.

Some in Oklahoma law enforcement fear that if the court limits the use of drug dogs it could lead to more unchecked drug trafficking in the state.

``Without the dog as a tool there's going to be a lot of people getting away,'' said Sgt. Matt Boley of the Goodwell Police Department, who, with his K-9 partner Demi, frequently patrol U.S. 54, a major drug trafficking route through the Panhandle.

The way Boley sees it _ and he thinks the court will too _ a dog has the right to be any where an officer is, he said.

Edmond Police Chief Bob Ricks, who formed a drug interdiction unit soon after he became chief, said a ruling against the use of dogs will seriously hurt officers' ability to detect drug traffickers.

The vast majority of drug seizures result from dogs' alerts, he said, other indicators, such as drivers who appear more nervous than usual, don't usually rise to the level of probable cause for searches.

``The use of the dog would give you probable cause,'' Ricks said. ``Historically, the Supreme Court has ruled that was not a search within the boundaries of the Fourth Amendment.''