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    Hey guys, I got this from the front page of Officer.com. If there are any legal experts here, I have a few questions about this case. It charges that the USPCA's certification is faulty. I don't certify to them, but is there a certification standard that the court is now looking at. It looks like you need to have a control false alert testing phase or something like that. I do not have a narcotics dog, but we are soon to get one... funding willing... What is the explination in this? Also, does this apply to patrol dogs, should we be clearing buildings without decoys to judge a false alert to a true alert? Guess this has me thinking about our entire training process. Looking for your opinions.... Maybe its something we already are doing and just need to be more specific about it in our training logs.

    Case: Matheson v. State, 28 FLW D1791, 2nd DCA

    Date: August 8, 2003

    FACTS: A trained drug detection dog, Razor, alerted on a vehicle during a routine traffic stop. This provided probable cause to search the vehicle and deputies found assorted drugs in the glove compartment. The defense moved to suppress the drugs on the basis that Razor's ability to detect drugs was unreliable. The prosecution presented Razor's trainer who testified that the dog received training through the Hillsborough County SheriffÂ’s Office (HCSO) and was certified by the United States Police Canine Association (USPCA). The defense countered with an expert who testified that the HCSO training is deficient. He stated that there was (1) inadequate training for searching vehicles, (2) lack of training for small quantities of drugs, (3) failure to plant novel odors during the training sessions, (4) there was no controlled negative testing, (5) no extinction training was provided which would discourage the dog from alerting on common items sometimes associated with drugs, and (6) the training did not include "stimulus generalization" which conditions the dog trained on one class of drugs to alert on all drugs in that class. The expert also disparaged that USPCA certification in that (1) there was no controlled negative testing, (2) the training searches were limited to ten minutes instead of "real world" time for searches, (3) the organization requires only a seventy percent proficiency to be certified, and (4) they fail to focus on the dog's ability to detect narcotics as opposed to analyzing the ability of the dog and handler as a team. It should also be noted that Razor's handler admitted that he did not maintain a record of the canine's false alert rate. The trial judge upheld the search and the defendant appealed.

    RULING: The appellate court suppressed the evidence. The court acknowledged that previous cases have held that training and certification of a canine establishes prima facie proof that the dog is reliable. However, this does not preclude the defense from introducing evidence to rebut this assumption. Based on the testimony in this particular case, the court ruled that the training Razor received together with the lack of performance history created doubts as to the canine's reliability. Therefore, his alert did not give the handler probable cause to search the vehicle.

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