Another Dog Scent Lineup Case Overturned

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Drug-Sniffing DogsThe Court of Criminal Appeals does not like dog scent lineup evidence.  While it has not come right out and declared such evidence categorically inadmissible (like polygraph evidence), it seems pretty close.  With each new dog scent lineup case, we learn how unreliable this type of evidence can be.

In Winfrey v. State, the CCA overturned a capital murder conviction wherein the evidence included a dog scent lineup.  The Court noted that the dog scent lineup along with the remainder of the evidence (all of it circumstantial) was only enough to raise a “suspicion of guilt,” but not enough to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.  The CCA overturned the conviction as being legally insufficient.

*Anytime we have a case involving a drug dog, we employ an expert consultant to review the dog handling technique of the officer. One of the best drug dog experts in Steve Scott with Scott’s Police K9 LLC in Flower Mound, Texas.

Criminal Defense Dog Scent Lineup

Fort Bend County Loses the Dog Scent Lineup Issue Again

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Criminal Defense Dog Scent LineupLast year, I posted about a murder case wherein a Fort Bend County dog handler used three bloodhounds to conduct a “dog scent lineup” to match a suspect’s body scent to the scent of certain evidence from the crime scene.  In that case, the CCA ruled that the scent evidence was not enough to establish that the suspect had committed the murder.  The CCA did not comment on the admissibility of scent lineup evidence.

Today, the First District Court of Appeals (Houston) issued an opinion in State v. Dominguez, another case involving the Fort Bend County dog handler.  Much like the last case I posted about, the dog handler was used to match a murder suspect’s scent with the scent of certain evidence from the crime scene.  This time, however, the scent lineup evidence did not even make it to the trier of fact.  After hearing the views of competing experts, the trial judge ruled that the evidence was inadmissible as unreliable.  Some of the flaws in the dog handler’s methodology that the court noted were:

  • He carries around his “blind” non-suspect scent samples (called foil samples) in ziplock bags;
  • His foil samples are old samples, while the scent sample of the suspect is fresh;
  • He does not do negative runs where the sample of the suspect is excluded;
  • He uses multiple dogs during each test rather than allowing the dogs to work alone; and
  • He is mostly self-taught and his methodology is something he created.

On appeal, the State argued that the trial judge abused his discretion in refusing to admit the evidence.  The First District upheld the trial judge’s ruling, holding that it was reasonable for the trial court of conclude that the scent lineup evidence was unreliable.

Now the courts have intervened twice to smack down the Fort Bend County dog handler’s “dog scent lineup” evidence.  The question is: will they keep using the dogs in Fort Bend or will there be three former police bloodhounds on Craigslist by the end of the week?