Florida v. Harris: Is Your Search Dog’s Sniff “Up to Snuff?

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Education Law Reporter


students, search, fourth amendment, search and seizure, school, search dog, drug sniffing dog


The use of search–dogs in schools raises fundamental constitutional questions concerning the objects being searched and the reliability of the dog used in the search. Where school officials have been alerted to the presence of drugs by informants, these officials have faced legal challenges to the reliability of the information received. Courts have reasoned that a search dog's alert to lockers, cars, and other locations or objects in schools easily satisfies the higher law enforcement probable cause standard and, thus, T.L.O.'s lower reasonable suspicion standard as well. However, little, if any attention, has been drawn to whether a sniff dog's alert to the presence of drugs can be challenged in terms of the reliability of the search dog's alert. This article focuses on the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Florida v. Harris (Harris) that involved a search dog's alert to a vehicle and a subsequent search of that vehicle by a police officer in a non–school setting. In addition, this article discusses how Harris may impact the use of search dogs in schools.


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