Involuntary Search or Legal Procedure?

The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania Middle District ruled that the consent that Appellant, Randy Jesus Valdivia “Valdivia” gave to Pennsylvania State Troopers Jeremy Hoy and David Long to search his van did not extend to a canine search 40 minutes later.

In 2013, Troopers Hoy and Long stopped Valdivia’s white minivan after he did not use a turning signal while switching lanes.

Troopers discovered two large boxes marked with Christmas wrapping that had no marking from an airliner despite Valdivia claiming he was coming from an airport. Troopers noted that it is a tactic for drug traffickers to camouflage their packages.

Trooper Hoy asked to search his car and Valdivia gave his verbal consent and signed a written consent form. Trooper Hoy did not specify that this would be a canine search nearly 40 minutes after the fact.

The troopers removed two Christmas packages and a suitcase from the van. They opened both boxes and found clear, vacuum-sealed packages containing individually wrapped bags of suspected marijuana.

The Commonwealth charged Valdivia related to possession, however he filed a motion seeking suppression of all evidence obtained as a result of the search of his vehicle. He claimed that the canine search and the lengthy delay exceeded the scope of any purported consent that he gave.

All evidence obtained from his vehicle should be suppressed pursuant to the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article 1, Section 8 of the Pennsylvania Constitution.

However, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania sided with Valdivia, citing the defendant was not properly notified that the search would involve canines and that Trooper Hoy gave conflicting testimony.

Also, in United States v. Place, 462 U.S. 696 (1983), the United States Supreme Court held that a canine search is not considered a search under the Fourth Amendment. This Court believed that “canine sniffs” are not akin to searches conducted by human law officers.

According to this Court, Valdivia would have no inclination that a canine search of his vehicle would be imminent since he was not properly aware of the fact. Even when an individual gives consent, there are certain limitations that should be enforced by the bounds of reasonableness. In this specific case, conducting a canine search is outside the bounds of reasonableness.

The dissenting opinion of the court argues that a canine search had “long been used” by police as early as 1976. Furthermore, they argue that a canine search is not nearly as intrusive and invasive compared to a comprehensive human search of vehicle.

The dissenting opinion also argues that the appellant at no time stopped the officers from conducting the search nor did the appellant ask for a reason why the search was delayed.