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What are my rights in regard to random police dog air sniffs in my University dorm? I am a first year student at Cal Poly, SLO.

San Luis Obispo, CA |

This year, the University Police Department will bring in police dog(s) (in training) quarterly to conduct free air sniffs in the residence halls. University policy states: "[Right of entry]...for the purpose of emergency, health, safety, maintenance, management of applicable rules and regulations, or for any other lawful purpose. The University shall exercise these rights reasonable and with respect for the Licensee's right to be free from unreasonable searches and intrusions into study or privacy." If the "in training" police dog notifies the handler of marijuana in the room -- but the officer/staffer CANNOT smell it himself --, does the UPD officer or housing staff have the authority to search my room? If the police dog was certified, would your answer to the preceding question change?

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Attorney answers 1


This is a murky area of the law. The purpose of these dogs is to detect what the human nose cannot. So the ability of the UPD officer to smell contraband is not the issue here.

Were the dog certified already the answer would be an unqualified yes. The positive signal from a certified dog is probable cause to search. The use of a dog still in training is less certain and frankly would really have to shake out at a suppression motion hearing. Thus, the student would have to refuse entry, the UPD would have to conduct their search, find contraband, and the student would have to file a motion to suppress.

the state would then have to establish how reliable that particular dog's track record was as to why UPD officers reliance on the signal was reasonable.

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