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Appeals court ruling could impact California residents

An opinion delivered by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit could call into question the accuracy of K-9 drug sniffing units used by authorities in California and around the country. The case in question involved a St. Louis man who was sentenced to 20 years in prison after being found in possession of cocaine in 2010. Police found the substance after a search of his car was triggered by the findings of a drug sniffing dog.

Although the court upheld the conviction, the ruling concluded that the dog's accuracy was no better than a coin flip. It further stated that if the training school the dog attended calculated class rank, the dog in question would have been at the bottom of its class. The opinion also claimed that the conviction could have been overturned had the police put any more weight into the dog's findings.

The trainer who was in charge of the dog said that he was a good dog and that the opinion was one-sided. However, he did concede that the dog had failed a controlled test during the appeal process. Other evidence showed that the dog detected drugs in 93 percent of cases and was wrong 40 percent of the time. Overall, the court found that the dog's performance was just barely above the threshold established by the Supreme Court.

Those who are facing drug charges may wish to talk to an attorney as soon as possible. Legal counsel may be able to create a defense to the charge such as claiming that a traffic stop that led to discovery of drugs was conducted illegally. It may also be possible to argue that the drugs did not belong to the individual in question or that they were used for legal medical purposes. This may lead to charges being dropped or reduced.

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