The U.S. Supreme Court is set to decide whether police K9 drug searches are reliable, and more importantly constitutional. This comes during a review of two drug arrests in Florida which involved police dogs.
For more than 20 years, K9 officers have been a valuable weapon for the Fresno County Narcotics Unit.
Lieutenant Rick Ko, Fresno County Narcotics Unit, says "They're used to conduct sniff tests on sniff tests on objects, vehicles, houses to determine if there are drugs present."
But these drug-sniffing dogs are now at the center of a big privacy debate. The question is, are K9 drug searches a violation of the 4th Amendent? The Supreme Court is taking a closer look at two cases in Florida to find an answer.
American Civil Liberties Union Staff Attorney, Michael Risher says "One of them is involving whether the police need a warrant to use a dog to come up to the front door of your house and sniff around."
Fresno Defense Attorney Salvatore Sciandra says sniff tests should not be allowed without probable cause.
"I do have a problem with dogs being brought up to people's houses for no reason at all, other than a fishing expedition. I would be outraged."
But officers argue K9s are a big tool in establishing probable cause. That brings up the second issue, reliability.
"It's important that people realize that if a dog gives a false alert, it really has the potential to invade personal privacy in an enormous way," says Risher.
The Supreme Court will also decide if a dog's alert is enough to justify a search of a person's car or home.
Lt. Rick Ko says, "Absolutely they're reliable. They're tested, they're certified."
"Is it enough for them to just say well we trained the dog, therefore this should be assumed and reliable?," asks Risher.
The ACLU tells us the Supreme Court's decision will not stop the use of these dogs, but it could impose stricter rules on proving the dog is qualified and has a good record of accurate, not false, alerting.
The Supreme Court heard arguments on this issue Wednesday. A final decision has not yet been made.