Court Cases Handlers May Not Learn About in Their Search and Seizure Classes

State of Nebraska v. William McFadden

The judge said “I am troubled by the fact that Duis testified that a well trained dog will alert only to the odors it was trained to detect contrary to Prante's testimony (and case law on the subject) that one may not conclude from an alert that the dog detected any drugs. And, of course, I am troubled most of all by the fact that Fango did not sit as he was trained to do.”  It should be noted the Sgt. Duis follows the concepts of Wendell Nope. Nope supported Sgt. Duis in a deposition in the case of US v. Heir. Nope is not mentioned in the case but he was in fact deposed by the defense and supported the fact the dog did not exhibit its trained response was acceptable. The court ruled a dog not exhibiting its trained response was not acceptable.


Handlers need to make sure their trainers teach the dog from the moment it detects the target odor it works to the odor source or strongest point and then exhibits its trained response. Anything less is a poorly trained dog.


Iowa v. Stocker

In Stocker elements that caused the judge to dismiss the case were in McFadden. One thing the judge addressed in Stocker was the certification. I explained to the court that only placing items for detection on the exterior of the vehicle was not realistic and the certification should be considered invalid.


Texas v. Jason Smith

In response to the State’s request, the trial court entered the following findings of fact from the September 12, 2007 hearing:

1.      Keith Pikett testified that there was a possible cross-contamination of the scents in the lineup in question;

2.      Keith Pikett did not run a “blind” scent lineup in the instant case without the defendant;

3.      Keith Pikett does not keep complete records on the scent lineups that his dogs have participated in;

4.      Keith Pikett’s training records regarding the dog’s training are incomplete;

5.      Keith Pikett’s failure to maintain records makes it difficult to determine accuracy or error rates;

6.      Keith Pikett’s “records” were not subject to peer review;

7.      Keith Pikett failed to follow up on the dispositions of cases in which his dogs participated;

8.      Keith Pikett failed to perform validation testing on his dogs during scent lineups;

9.      Keith Pikett testified that no one is reviewing his work;

10. The bloodhound dogs in question are not certified and there is no recognized industry standard on bloodhounds and no certification program for bloodhounds;

11. While the idea that bloodhounds can track and identify scents is accepted as valid, there is no clear1y accepted method for conducting scent lineups;

12. No literature was offered by the State in support of the manner in which the scent lineup in question was conducted;

13. No independent evidence was presented by the State regarding the potential rate of error;

14. No evidence was presented by the State regarding the availability of other experts to test and evaluate the manner in which the scent lineup in question was conducted;

15. The defense presented evidence that the dogs in question could be intentionally or unintentionally influenced by the dog handler because the manner in which the scent lineup in question was conducted;

16. There was no showing that the scent lineup results could be duplicated by others following the same methods.


The trial court offered the following conclusion of law:  “Keith Pikett’s methods in this case were not shown to be sufficiently reliable to allow his testimony to be admitted, and therefore Keith Pikett will not be allowed to testify as an expert.”

I prepared the defense for cross examination of Pikett who admitted to 1-9. During testimony I explained the importance of records. Deputy Pikett was also asked several questions in behavioral science terms and he had no idea of what he was being asked. I also explained how it was very likely Deputy Pikett was cueing his dogs.

 Other cases in which Deputy Pikett’s dog evidence was dismissed are Winfry v. Texas and Texas v. Rodolfo Dominguez. In Dominguez Dr. Kenneth Furton, Chair Person of SWGDOG, supported another dog that was not certified. It is odd that SWGDOG publishes suggested “Best Practices” but their own Chair Person will not follow them if they challenge a dog in court.

STATE OF TENNESSEE v. KEVON FLY After Officer Carter wrote the defendant citations for failure to possess proof of insurance and a driver’s license, he asked the defendant for permission to search his vehicle. The defendant denied the permission. The officer asked the defendant to step out of his car and informed him that the officer’s dog, Rico. Tennessee Court of Appeals held that after the business of the traffic stop was complete searching the exterior of the vehicle without consent or probable cause was an illegal search.


This is a case involving the use of an explosive detector dog as if it were a drug detector dog. The court held that using an explosive dog as a sniff was a search that violated 4th amendment rights.

United States vs. Patterson, 65 F, 3d 68 Wisconsin 1995  Of all the cases out there based on what I consider poorly trained dog teams this one takes the cake. In my opinion if a dog cannot work through this really simplistic situtation it has no business on the street, and the person responsible for training and maintaing this dog is not a knowledgeable trainer.


Chief District Judge Joseph F. Bataillon recently dismissed eveidence in a drug case Douglas County Deputy Sheriff Douglas Wintle, and his drug detector dog. The judge in this case appeared to understand that if the dog is reliable there is no need to spent 33 minutes as this handler did collecting information before running the dog. Also, the judge seemed to understand that claims or residual was not the same as actually finding drugs. The judge also understood, it is unnecessary for a well trained dog to be prompted by the handler or someone acting like they were hidding something to get the dog to search, and that once the dog has completed one pass around the vehicle without responding that was it. Also, repeatly taking the dog back to an area and then saying the dog responded to that area is not acceptable to this judge. Mabe this judge has opened the door for those trainer who do not know how to teach a dog to begin searching calmly and intently on command, and to respond without handler imput, to pass on out. Hopefully so then those interested in really taking drugs off the street using the dogs will be left. Then we can have real drug dogs and not probable cause dogs.

State of Utah vs. Rafael Alegria

In this case the judge ruled the dog reliable. But it goes to show what can happen by not trusting your dog. Stop asking all those questions they do nothing to help your dog and can in fact as in this case have an adverse effect. Trust your dog. If you don't trust your dog enought to run it without all those questions get another dog, or another trainer.

Arizona vs. Wright (Appeals Court Decision)

This team was trained and certified by Alderhorst International. The Sergeant and head trainer for Arizona DPS testified as an expert supporting the report submitted by David Reaver owner of Alderhorst International. The court found the dog was not reliable and the certification process invalid. Those using dogs trained and certified by Alderhorst International should review this case and compare it with their recordkeeping and certification procedures. Having reviewed at least 4 different dogs trained and certified all teams performed very similar.

 United States vs. Clarkson

This was the second time this case had been before the courts. In the first case Wendell Nope was standing by to testify, but the Judge ruled that probable cause existed without the dog. Federal Judge Campbell stopped the calling of Wendell Nope to the stand. Sgt. Nope was going to support a non-certified dog as being reliable. Judge Campbell make it clear they prosecution did not want her to rule on the reliability of the dog. She said that Mr. Nicely’s testimony was too convincing. The Judge in the 2nd hearing heard the testimony of the handler and Sgt. Wendell Nope as well as Mr. Nicely and concluded “the court credits Mr. Nicely’s testimony over that of Officer Anderson and/or Sgt. Nope, the court finds that Defendant has satisfied his burden of demonstrating that Oso was unqualified to serve as a narcotics detection dog at the time he was deployed in this case.”

  Arizona vs. David Frederick Wakeling

In this case, Border Patrol claimed their dog detected drugs. The case was turned over to Yuma County for prosecution. Border Patrol refused to release training and testing records for review. As a result the court dismissed the case.

United States v. Garcia

In this case the court determined the dog was cued and the certificaiton process was insufficent due to the fact no double-blind testing occured.