A dog with a sharp nose for drugs can be a great asset to any police department, but in the case of a German shepherd named Bono, accuracy is not his strongest suit.
The four-legged crime fighter working for the Virginia State Police has been on a hot streak, detecting drugs nearly every time he’s on the job. In reality, however, illegal narcotics were found just 22 times of the 85 ‘alerts’ by the dog.
That was the argument public defender Randy Cargill representing Herbert Green, 45, tried to use to suppress the 1.5kilogram of cocaine found in his client’s SUV with Bono’s help, the Roanoke Times reported.
Earlier this week, federal Judge Glen Conrad denied the motion to suppress, ruling that while Bono’s nose may not be fool-proof, it is sufficient to support a drug charge against Green.
Cargill argued that Bono’s track record was so poor that police lacked probable cause to search Green’s SUV in the first place.
Bono ‘may not be a model of canine accuracy,’ Conrad wrote in an opinion filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Roanoke.
However, the judge ruled that other factors, including the dog's training and flawless performance during re-certification sessions, were enough to overcome a challenge raised by Green's attorney.
Prosecutors are now free to try Green on charges of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.
Green, of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was arrested on March 17, 2011, after a state trooper patrolling Interstate 77 in Wythe County, Virginia, pulled him over for having illegally tinted windows and an obscured license plate.
When Bono was called to the scene, he began to wag his tail furiously and pawed at the vehicle after apparently catching a whiff of something near the rear panel of Green’s Lincoln Navigator, according to earlier testimony.
Prosecutors said the dog’s ‘alert’ gave police probable cause to search the vehicle, where they found a duffel bag containing cocaine and about $7,000 in cash.
But after learning that Bono had an accuracy rate of just 26 per cent, Cargill filed a motion seeking to suppress the evidence.
During a hearing on June 6, Assistant U.S. Attorney Ashley Neese defended the pooch's job performance.
She explained that in some cases where nothing was found after an alert by Bono, police later determined that cocaine or marijuana had been in the vehicle hours earlier, leaving a scent the dog was trained to detect.
Bono’s handler Trooper Brian Dillon testified that variables such as wind and the possibility of well-stashed drugs in a car would affect the numbers cited by the defense.
‘It's just a big game of hide-and-seek with the canine,’ Dillon said.
Taking this information into consideration, Judge Conrad put Bono’s accuracy rate closer to 50 per cent.
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Bad dog! Anger at police pooch named Bono that ALWAYS says there are drugs in a car