Detector Dogs and Probable Cause


In this Article, Professor Myers argues that an alert, even by a well-trained dog with an excellent track record in the field, cannot by itself constitute probable cause to search. By using a Bayesian analysis of the value of dog alerts, he demonstrates that additional evidence is needed before probable cause exists. He shows why police won’t make changes to their use of dogs without outside prodding, and explores who might do so. The article makes some suggestions that, if adopted, will improve the courts’ approach to detector dog technologies, allowing them to better strike the balance between the competing values of effective law enforcement and personal privacy. This article uses detector dogs as a case study in the difficulty the courts face in reevaluating old technology, a problem that brings with it additional layers of complexity, because stare decisis and settled expectations limit the courts’ freedom to make adjustments through application of Fourth Amendment principles.


Criminal Law | Criminal Procedure

Date of this Version

March 2006