A Fruitless Motorhome Search Based on an Invisible Dog Alert, Followed by a Puzzling Chase

Discussion in 'Civil Rights & Privacy' started by Mike, Apr 18, 2013.

  1. Mike

    Mike Founding Member Coach

    Welcome to the Constitution-free zone, and forget about the 4th amendment ...

    Reason: A Fruitless Motorhome Search Based on an Invisible Dog Alert, Followed by a Puzzling Chase

    Around 9:30 a.m. on February 20, Dale (who asked me not to use his last name) was driving his motorhome west on Interstate 10 near Deming, heading home to California, when he was stopped at a permanent Border Patrol checkpoint. (The Supreme Court has upheld suspicionless stops at such checkpoints, which can be as far as 100 miles from an actual border, based mainly on the need to enforce immigration laws.) A Border Patrol agent walked a German shepherd around the motorhome, the sort of inspection the Supreme Court has said law enforcement officers may conduct at will during any legal traffic stop. Dale has cameras mounted inside and outside the motorhome (as a precaution against both theft and police harassment, he says), so he has video showing most of what happened during the stop. Although the video does not show the dog during the entire circuit around the vehicle, Dale says he watched the whole thing, via the motorhome's mirrors, except for a moment when the dog was in a blind spot. He says the dog was "not making any indication to [the vehicle] by barking, scratching, or sitting and staring at any particular area." The dog's handler nevertheless signaled his colleagues with a V sign, apparently indicating that the animal had alerted. At that point Dale was instructed to pull into a secondary inspection area for a search.

    An obvious lie from Border Patrol goon:

    Oddly, Dale's companion says an agent told him the dog had indicated the presence of marijuana specifically, although drug-sniffing dogs generally are trained to detect several different substances, and they alert the same way to all of them.

    So the search continues:

    One of Dale's cameras shows that the dog entered the motorhome with its handler, wandering around for a minute or two but not showing special interest in anything. Then the handler and two other agents searched the motorhome for eight more minutes, at one point chuckling over something they picked up and at another point lifting a bed to look underneath. (Dale says they damaged the bed frame.) Finding nothing illegal, they sent Dale and his passenger on their way about 15 minutes after stopping them.

    But there's more excitement in store for him:

    But it turned out the Border Patrol was not through with Dale yet. A minute or so after he left the checkpoint, two agents chased him in a Border Patrol car with flashing lights and pulled him over. One of the agents had left a metal eyeglass case in the motorhome, which he retrieved, saying (according to Dale), "You do not want to be caught with this in your vehicle!" Dale found the remark (and the chase, which was not justified by anything he had done) unnerving, wondering what the (expletive deleted) was in that eyeglass case.

    Which they then claimed only contained eyeglasses. And the conclusion ...

    Last month the Court ruled that police need probable cause to deploy a drug-sniffing dog at the doorstep of a home. But when the home is on wheels, a canine inspection of the exterior no longer counts as a search. It can be conducted on a whim and, depending on how the dog reacts (or is said to react), used to justify a search of this intimate space without any need for court approval.

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