Drug War Briefs: Drug Sniffing Dogs and the Constitution

This week, the Supreme Court considers the constitutionality of allowing drug sniffing dogs during routine traffic stops; Holland's right-leaning government considers reclassifying potent marijuana as a hard drug; two top Mexican police officials are arrested for protecting drug traffickers; a Texas District Attorney will face legal action for his role in the Tulia drug sting; and the White House drug "czar's" office begins a nationwide tour promoting random drug testing in schools.

April 6- The Boston Globe reports: The Supreme Court agreed yesterday to rule on the constitutionality of police using dogs to sniff for illegal drugs in vehicles stopped for routine traffic violations.

In a brief order, the justices voted to hear an appeal by the State of Illinois arguing that sniff searches are not covered by the Constitution, so police are allowed to make them without having grounds for suspecting a vehicle may be carrying drugs.

The Illinois Supreme Court, however, ruled that a canine search could be done only at a traffic stop if the officers have specific reasons to think there are drugs in a vehicle. Without those suspicions, the state court said, a routine traffic stop broadens into a drug investigation, and that can be justified only with some evidence greater that "a vague hunch."

The case gives the Supreme Court an opportunity to explore an increasingly complex constitutional question: What more may officers do during routine traffic stops, beyond asking for a driver's license and registration?

April 6- Reuters reports: Tourists who flock to Amsterdam to smoke cannabis in its "coffee shops" without fear of prosecution may find their choice curtailed as part of a proposed review of liberal Dutch drug laws. The Dutch government is considering a ban on the sale of highly potent strains of cannabis under the proposed review, cabinet sources said Tuesday. The center-right government in the Netherlands, where cannabis smokers can openly buy and smoke the drug in hundreds of government-regulated "coffee shops," is to discuss the proposed review in cabinet Thursday.

April 7- The San Diego News-Tribune reports: Two top officials of the investigative police in central Morelos state were arrested for protecting a branch of a major Mexican drug organization, a federal authority announced Wednesday.

Raul Cortes and Jose Agustin Montiel, operating director and general director, respectively, are accused of protecting a cell of the Juarez Cartel, so-named for the northern border city where the organization conducts its business.

The two officers were part of a network of police officials dedicated to providing protection for the cartel and worked with cartel leader Vicente Carrillo, federal organized crime prosecutor Jose Vasconcelos told a news conference. The network's job included protecting airplanes arriving with cocaine from Colombia. The investigation began in 2002.
The arrests of five other suspects were pending, Vasconcelos said, without elaborating.

April 9- The Amarillo Globe News reports: The State Bar of Texas filed a petition this week accusing the district attorney who prosecuted the Tulia drug sting cases of "serious" misconduct, including withholding evidence and making false statements in court to prop up the reputation of an undercover agent who has since been indicted for perjury. District Attorney Terry McEachern faces discipline ranging from a public reprimand to disbarment if the allegations against him are held up at trial, which should happen this year, said Dawn Miller, chief disciplinary counsel for the bar.

"We do consider it a very serious case," Miller said. "But it's very early on in the process to really know what ( punishment ) our evidence will support."

April 9- Rocky Mountain News reports: White House drug policy officials came to Denver on Thursday, saying random drug testing of students can survive legal challenges and is "dirt cheap." "You can protect an entire high school for about $1,000 a year," said David Evans, with the Drug-Free Schools Coalition, who was invited by the White House to speak about the issue on a multi-city tour.

Mary Ann Solberg, deputy director of National Drug Control Policy, convened the meeting with community leaders and school officials.
Speakers said random drug testing of one in 10 students typically reduces use of marijuana and other drugs by 30 percent to 40 percent.

They said schools that follow the right formula have won most of the legal challenges posed by the American Civil Liberties Union, which opposes drug testing in the name of privacy and personal freedoms.

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