Cumberland Times-News

January 8, 2013

How long before ‘drug rigs’ show up on our streets?

To the Editor:
Cumberland Times-News

— Bear rigs are a common sight in many rural areas of West Virginia. A bear rig is a pickup truck with a box on the back with individual compartments for hauling bear dogs.

Many have a platform on top of the box where the strike dog can be tied.

A strike dog is a hound with a especially good nose. That is, it can smell a bear at greater distances then other dogs may be able to.

In addition it has been specially trained to bark only when it smells a bear and will trail only bear.

In use the strike dogs leash is fastened to the platform and the truck is driven slowly along the roads through the hunting area. When the strike dog winds, that is smells a bear, it “alerts” the driver by barking. The hunter stops, releases the dogs and the chase is on.

I thought of bear rigs the other day when I saw that two of the cases the Supreme Court of the United States were going to hear this term involved the use of drug dogs.

One case involves Franky, a Labrador retriever whose alert to the front door of a Dade County, Florida house was the basis for a search warrant that led to Joelis Jardines’ 2006 arrest for growing marijuana.

In this case, the Miami-Dade police received an anonymous, unverified tip that Jardines’ home was being used to grow marijuana.

They waited almost a month to act. Then since they had no evidence for a search warrant they, backed by agents of the DEA, staked out the home at 7 a.m.

Despite seeing no suspicious activity, in fact no activity at all, they had a dog handler with a drug detection dog on a leash go up to the front door of the man’s home.

A detective was told the dog had “alerted” to the presence contraband. He then went up to the door and said he smelled marijuana. The detective then applied for and received a search warrant.

A search was conducted and marijuana was found growing in the house. Jardine was arrested, tried and convicted.

He appealed his conviction claiming violations of his Fourth Amendment rights. That is the right not to have his home searched without probable cause and that the police did not have probable cause until the dog was brought to his door.

His conviction was overturned by the Florida Supreme Court. The state of Florida is now appealing this decision.

If the Supreme Court finds in favor of the state I wonder how long it will be before we start seeing “drug rigs” cruising our streets? Followed by “gun rigs.” I’m sure Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel and New York mayor Michael Bloomberg would want those. Heck, Bloomberg would probably want “oversize drink rigs.”

I guess there could be a bright side to losing our right not to have our homes searched without probable cause. It might help the economy, General Motors could make the drug rigs, and Ford the gun rigs.

Of course unlike the bear rigs, that are paid for by the hunters themselves, these rigs would be paid for by the taxpayers, probably from Homeland Security funds. Those funds have been used for things just as silly.

Jay Simmons

Moorefield, W.Va.