Supreme Court: Drug-sniffing police dogs unconstitutional without warrant

Drug sniffing dogsWhile most of the nation focuses on The Supreme Court’s hearings on gay marriage, the high court made a different interesting ruling Tuesday:

Police cannot bring drug-sniffing police dogs onto a suspect’s property to look for evidence without first getting a warrant for a search.

It’s a decision which may limit how investigators use dogs’ sensitive noses to search out drugs, explosives and other items hidden from human sight, sound and smell, Associated Press reporter Jesse Holland writes.

It’s the second opinion this year on the use of drug-sniffing dogs by police.

The court unanimously ruled earlier in another Florida case that police don’t have to extensively document the work of drug-sniffing dogs in the field to be able to use the results of their work in court.

 

Highlights from the AP coverage of Tuesday’s decision:

The high court split 5-4 on the decision to uphold the Florida Supreme Court’s ruling throwing out evidence seized in the search of Joelis Jardines’ Miami-area house. That search was based on an alert by Franky the drug dog from outside the closed front door.

Justice Antonin Scalia said a person has the Fourth Amendment right to be free from the government’s gaze inside their home and in the area surrounding it, which is called the curtilage.

“The police cannot, without a warrant based on probable cause, hang around on the lawn or in the side garden, trawling for evidence and perhaps peering into the windows of the home,” Justice Antonin Scalia said for the majority.

Dissenting Justice Samuel Alito argued that it’s not trespassing when a mail carrier comes on a porch for a brief period.  And that includes “police officers who wish to gather evidence against an occupant,” Alito said.

“According to the court, however, the police officer in this case, Detective Bartelt, committed a trespass because he was accompanied during his otherwise lawful visit to the front door of the respondent’s house by his dog, Franky. Where is the authority evidencing such a rule?”

Earthquake jolts Indio man who turns self in during stakeout

A 2012 file photo of a police car. (Richard Lui, The Desert Sun)

Richard Lui, The Desert Sun

As she called Coachella Valley police and fire officials to check for injuries or damage caused by Monday’s 4.7-magnitude earthquake and foreshock, Desert Sun reporter Sherry Barkas got this anecdote from Indio police:

The jolts frightened at least one suspected criminal so much, he turned himself in to police who were surrounding his home, Indio police spokesman Ben Guitron said.

The Coachella Valley auto theft task force, RAID, was doing surveillance Monday morning on the suspected thief, after following him with GPS to a home on Jackson Street, just north of Avenue 42.

“This wasn’t a high risk situation,” Guitron said, so officers were content waiting outside until they got a search warrant.

Then the earthquakes struck, and the man looked out the window, saw all the police outside, and just gave himself up, Guitron said.

For more about how the quake affected people — and alpacas (No, really.) — across Southern California, read MyDesert’s main earthquake story.

Chris Dorner manhunt: Riverside police officer second killed in California this year

Desert Sun file photo from May 2008 of a mourning badge on a Cathedral City police officer.

A Riverside police officer was killed Thursday, and a second one wounded, when police say they were ambushed at a stop light.

Thousands of police officers flooded into Southern California and Nevada looking for the suspected gunman, identified as former Los Angeles police officer Christopher Dorner. He’s also named as the suspected gunman in two deaths in Irvine on Sunday.

The killed officer, who police have not identified publicly, was the second  officer to be shot to death in California this year.

Galt Police Officer Kevin A. Tonn, 35, was killed Jan. 15 when he was responding to a burglary call.

The Riverside police officer’s death brings the total number of officers killed in California history to 1,535.

That figure is higher than the entire populations of 20 different cities or towns in California.

U.S. law enforcement death and assault reports by the numbers:* 

  • Ten officers have been killed in the line of duty in the U.S. this year (a 52 percent drop from the same time period last year).
  • An average of 156 officers are killed per year in the U.S.
  • An average of 58,261 officers are assaulted each year.

In honor of the Riverside police officer, Riverside County has ordered flags be flown at half-staff until Thursday, Feb. 14.

There will be a prayer vigil outside Riverside City Hall at 6 p.m. (Thursday, Feb. 7.)

* Sources: Officer Down Memorial Page and the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund

1 out of 5 arrested is someone on parole or probation, California study finds

Desert Sun file photo

One out of every five people arrested is on parole or probation — a lower number than law enforcement expected — according to a newly published study.

Researchers examined to what extent people on parole or probation contribute to crime (as measured by arrests).

They used data from Los Angeles, Redlands, Sacramento and San Francisco police over more than three years, ending in June 2011.

The Council of State Governments Justice Center, a nonpartisan and nonprofit organization based in Kentucky, found:

  • The majority of adult felony and misdemeanor arrests (77%) involved people who were not under supervision.
  • When looking only at drug violations, one out of every three people arrested was on probation or parole.
  • Total arrests fell by 18 percent. Meanwhile, the number parolees arrested fell 61 percent, and people on probation declined 26 percent.

The data shows there’s a “small fraction” of parolees who are “contributing disproportionately to drug-related crime,” Redlands Police Chief Mark Garcia said this week in a news statement about the study.

As a whole, though, Sacramento Police Chief Rick Braziel said:

“Our assumption has been that people under probation and parole were driving our arrest activity, but the data suggests otherwise,” he said.

“This new information opens up opportunities for law enforcement agencies, which are grappling with huge budget cuts, to work with partners in probation and parole to be more efficient and targeted in our prevention, intervention, and enforcement efforts.”

The study was paid for by the Public Safety Performance Project of the Pew Center on the States, the Public Welfare Foundation, the Fund for Nonviolence and the Rosenberg Foundation.

 

RELATED LINKS:

Coachella Valley police use of force: How your department ranks

A SWAT team practiced at Palm Desert High School in July 2011 in this file photo (Richard Lui, The Desert Sun).

The Desert Sun ran a nearly four-page special investigation Sunday examining Coachella Valley police use of force:

Story: Coachella Valley use-of-force reports drop, but four deadly shootings ties record

Graphic: A closer look at use-of-force reports

Valley police shot seven people in confrontations in 2012, four of them deadly.

So far this year, valley police have shot two people. Palm Springs police shot a man Jan. 9 after they say he ran into three officers with a car. Three Indio police officers shot a man late Monday.

Nationwide, officers used force in 3.6 out of every 10,000 calls over a two-year period, according to the last-known comprehensive national study, published by the International Association of Chiefs of Police in 2001.

Here’s how your police department ranks for use of force — batons, dog bites, pepper spray, physical force, shootings, Tasers — according to The Desert Sun’s analysis of their data:

2012

  • Palm Springs: 28 uses of force (4.36 times per 10,000 calls)
  • Indio: 21 uses of force (3.23 times per 10,000 calls)
  • Desert Hot Springs: 10 uses of force (2.87 times per 10,000 calls)
  • Cathedral City: 3 uses of force (0.68 times per 10,000 calls)

2011

  • Indio: 31 uses of force (4.39 times per 10,000 calls)
  • Palm Springs: 22 uses of force (3.44 times per 10,000 calls)
  • Cathedral City: 9 uses of force (1.95 times per 10,000 calls)
  • Desert Hot Springs: 6 uses of force (1.67 times per 10,000 calls)

2010

  • Indio: 35 uses of force (4.97 times per 10,000 calls)
  • Palm Springs: 28 uses of force (3.9 times per 10,000 calls)
  • Desert Hot Springs: 7 uses of force (1.72 times per 10,000 calls)
  • Cathedral City: 8 uses of force (1.57 times per 10,000 calls)

 

The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department — which oversees police services in Coachella, Indian Wells, La Quinta, Palm Desert and Rancho Mirage — could not provide comparable data.

After repeated requests, it gave The Desert Sun its data on shootings and dog bites, as well as stun gun use for January through August 2012 only.

The sheriff’s department does not track its deputies’ other force, including baton usage, pepper spray or physical force.

Grant Virgin: Why John and JJ Virgin share their son’s story

Before I walked into Grant Virgin’s hospital room for the first time, the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles media director called me.

Grant is not in your typical hospital room, he told me, warning me about the Posey bed — a tent-like cover that can be zipped up and clipped closed for his own security and for those around him.

I had reported on Grant’s injuries since Sept. 10, the night he was struck by a car in a hit and run in Palm Desert.

The 16-year-old’s bones were broken from head to toe, his aorta was crushed and his brain was rocked inside his head. He should have died.

I thought I was prepared to see him.

But actually walking into Grant’s hospital room — seeing the scar on his head,  watching his labored movements and sensing his exhaustion – was a different experience.

It sunk in how much this young man’s life was derailed by only a second or two one warm fall evening. It made my heart hurt for him.

His parents, John and JJ Virgin, agreed to let a reporter, photographer and videographer share their family’s story.

(story, photos, videos from inside his hospital room) 
(how many, why and what our lawmakers have to say about it) 

 

They opened the door for the community to see the heartbreak of Grant’s crash, their unwavering belief in integrative medicine and their differing opinions on the hit-and-run driver who altered the course of all their lives.

Most of all, they told me, they’re grateful to a community that has supported Grant’s journey. That’s what has kept their faith in the goodness of people.

But this is only the beginning of a different life for Grant, his parents and his younger brother, Bryce.

And it is only the start of our questions for lawmakers, police and state leaders about how we can create a better system that will help find justice for Grant and thousands of other hit-and-run victims.

How to help: 

Palm Desert police asked anyone with information about Grant’s crash to call (760) 836-1600Coachella Valley Crime Stoppers collects anonymous tips at (760) 341-7867.

The Virgin family is also accepting donations to help cover Grant’s medical expenses via Paypal (grantvirginfund@gmail.com).

One in seven drivers has drugs in their system, California Office of Traffic Safety finds

One in every seven weekend drivers had drugs in their system, according to the first-ever statewide survey of alcohol and drugs in drivers.

The California Office of Traffic Safety announced its survey results Monday. It concluded 14 percent of drivers tested positive for drugs, nearly double the 7.3 percent of drivers who had alcohol in their system.

About half the drugs — 7.4 percent of drivers, or just more than those with alcohol — were marijuana, while 4.6 percent of drivers tested positive for prescription or over-the-counter medications that can impair driving.

“Drug-impaired driving is often under-reported and under-recognized and toxicology testing is expensive,” the state agency wrote in a press release, which continues:

“This federally funded survey is the first of its kind ever undertaken by a state,” said Christopher J. Murphy, Director of the Office of Traffic Safety. “These results reinforce our belief that driving after consuming potentially impairing drugs is a serious and growing problem.”

It’s important to note that the OTS campaigns for drugged driving to receive the same national attention drunk driving does, and that the results came from drivers who voluntarily agreed to be tested.

More than 1,300 drivers agreed to provide breath and/or saliva samples at roadside locations. They were set up in nine unspecified California cities between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.

Under a new law, the specific kinds of DUI — alcohol, drugs or some combination of the two — will be categorized under separate violations, meaning it will be easier to track DUI arrests.