Best in Show: Admissibility of Police Dog Evidence

Author: Stephen P. Hurley
Co-author: Marcus J. Berghahn

A few years ago, we undertook the defense of a “cold case” and, in the course of that case, had to learn about dogs and their olfactory abilities. Our client was accused of killing his former spouse thirty years prior; the former spouse had gone missing around the time of her divorce from our client and her body had never been found. The state’s case was built, in part, on the testimony of human-remains- detection-dog handlers who would testify to the reaction of their dogs at various locations associated with our client. While a homicide case can be prosecuted without a body, this was a novel theory of prosecution. Here, the state was attempting to prove the element of death through the scent of a decaying body at locations tied to our client. The following article reflects what we learned from the standpoint of the admissibility of dog-sniff evidence.

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