Aldo, a German shepherd, had completed a 120-hour training course given by the Apopka, Fla., Police Department. He'd also received a one-year certification from Drugbeat, a private Missouri-based company that trains and certifies dogs for law enforcement. Once certified, Aldo and his handler, K-9 Officer William Wheetley, underwent regular training sessions.
Aldo and Wheetley were on patrol the afternoon of June 24, 2006, when the deputy sheriff pulled over a pickup near the town of Bristol, in Florida's panhandle. The pickup had an expired tag.
"The truck belonged to ... Clayton Harris," attorney Gregory Garre wrote in a brief for the state of Florida. "It was not going to be his day."
Harris seemed nervous, and the deputy saw an open beer can. He brought Aldo over and the dog got excited, and then Aldo sat down as an alert, next to the truck's front door. Under the driver's seat, Wheetley found 200 pseudoephedrine pills, which can be used to manufacture methamphetamine.
Harris' defense attorney, Tallahassee-based Assistant Public Defender Glen P. Gifford, noted that Aldo's original training had been with another officer and the dog's certification was out of date.
"Because a dog cannot be cross-examined like a police officer on the scene, whose observations often provide the basis for probable cause to search a vehicle, the state must introduce evidence concerning the dog's reliability," Florida Supreme Court Justice Barbara Pariente reasoned. "In cases involving dog sniffing for narcotics, it is particularly evident that the courts often accept the mythic dog with an almost superstitious faith."