Law Enforcement Bulletin

Sign up for newsletters and other news
Media > Newsletters > Law Enforcement Bulletin > August 2015 > Probable Cause: State v. Raphael, 2015 Ohio 3179

Law Enforcement Bulletin RSS feeds

Probable Cause: State v. Raphael, 2015 Ohio 3179

Question:  Can an officer continue to detain occupants of a vehicle despite a canine’s non-alert during an open-air sniff?

Quick Answer: Yes. The failure to alert is simply another factor to consider in analyzing the existence of the requisite suspicion. In this case, probable cause was satisfied by other factors despite the canine’s failure to alert.

Facts: A deputy stopped a southbound vehicle on a known drug corridor at 1 a.m. for a traffic violation. The deputy observed eight large packages, shaped in blocks, wrapped with moving blankets, tightly taped, and filling the entire rear of the vehicle. The driver and passenger were both extremely nervous, shaking and avoiding eye contact. The passenger was unable to provide identification and the driver had prior drug charges. The stories given by the men did not match and the deputy requested a canine for an open-air sniff. The dog arrived but did not alert. This did not lessen deputies’ suspicion that the men were transporting drugs. When their request to search the vehicle was denied, deputies secured a search warrant and recovered more than 40 kilograms of marijuana from the vehicle.
Importance: The Court held that the lack of canine alert does not automatically negate other factors amounting to probable cause to search. As deputies had established probable cause, it was permissible to extend the detention of the traffic stop in order to search the vehicle.

Keep in Mind: The Court noted that given the facts known at the time the canine failed to alert, deputies could have searched the vehicle even without a warrant pursuant to the vehicle exception to the search warrant requirement. Specifically, deputies observed eight suspicious packages, wrapping and bundling consistent with drug couriers (not furniture as suggested by suspects), air fresheners in vehicle, five cell phones in the vehicle, the route the vehicle was taking, the driver’s prior charges, and their inability to identify the passenger.