Drug-Sniffing Dogs Ruin Students’ Lives for Nothing!

Drug-sniffing dogs are promulgated as a law enforcement tool, so now two students are about to have their lives derailed. Far from being an objective means of detecting drugs, the dogs want to please their masters and are able to pick up on cues. The police would act just as rationally if they were allowed to stop people and flip a coin: heads they let them go and tails they search all their private belongings. As Reason.com posted last year,

Luckily for curious Border Patrol agents (and cops of all kinds), the Supreme Court says a dog’s as good as a warrant. “Agents rely heavily on drug-sniffing dogs to inspect the thousands of cars that go through the Border Patrol’s busiest checkpoints,” the Times notes. “But the agency does not seem to keep track of when dogs alert, how often they alert and how often their alerts are wrong. It records an alert only when it results in an arrest.”

Such selective recordkeeping also has been blessed by the Court. Although a defendant theoretically can challenge a search by arguing that the dog whose alert allegedly justified it was unreliable, law enforcement agencies have no obligation to collect the data required for such a challenge and every incentive not to do so. It is in any case not at all clear what kind of evidence would be required to show that a dog’s purported alert should not count as probable cause, especially since the government routinely argues that anything resembling a false alarm is a reaction to otherwise undetectable traces of drugs.

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So two students had their cars raided in the parking lot of San Pasqual High School parking lot on the basis of a dog that barked at nothing. One of the students had left his fishing gear in the car and they found three knives. It is infuriating to read the Times of San Diego article use the term, “contraband-sniffing dog,” and never raise the issue in the reader’s mind that the dog had given the police false information. But no one claims that dogs can smell knives! These were drug-sniffing dogs that gave a false alarm and nullified the students fourth-amendment rights.

The younger student (sixteen years old) kept a knife—a folding knife with a three-inch blade—in his car. He had never carried it at school.

So both students are facing expulsion, because the police broke into their cars for no reason. Both have already been suspended for weeks. According to Reason.com, for the younger student, expulsion means loss of a sports scholarship and being forced to change his plans and attend a community college. For the older student, who is an adult, the criminal charge may threaten his plan to join the Marines.

Does that make sense? A man is prohibited from serving his country because he forgot to clear fishing gear out of his car?

It is a mystery to me why the military is bound to recognize such “crimes” as defined by local bullies in authority. Not only does our military leadership want to draft women, but they are discouraging men from enlisting. Conveniently, boys who spend hours in their rooms playing first-person shooter games don’t have tools they might forgetfully leave in their cars. Outdoorsmen, on the other hand, have to be careful around school officials.

It is completely insane that there is a statutory law against having a knife on school property. If someone wanted to commit a crime with a knife, the law wouldn’t stop him. This law can only hurt people who intend no harm. I can see why a school would prohibit knives to ensure that no one accidentally cuts themselves, but that should be enforced with detention for a singular offense. Suspension is overbearing, expulsion is insane, and criminal charges are tyrannical. But that’s what zero tolerance is all about.

Joe Scudder

Joe Scudder is the "nom de plume" (or "nom de guerre") of a fifty-ish-year-old writer and stroke survivor. He lives in St Louis with his wife and still-at-home children. He has been a freelance writer and occasional political activist since the early nineties. He describes his politics as Tolkienesque.

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