Straughn Gorman was driving on Interstate 80 in Elko County, Nevada in January 2013 when he was pulled over by a state patrolman for driving too slowly in the passing lane. The patrolman asked to search Gorman’s recreational vehicle, but Gorman, a resident of Hawaii, did not consent. Though the patrolman let him go without so much as a warning or traffic citation, it appears he arranged for an Elko County sheriff’s deputy who had a drug-sniffing dog to pull him over.
During the second stop, the dog was alerted, and the deputy searched the RV. No illicit drugs were found. The deputy did, however, come across more than $167,000 in cash. Gorman was not arrested, nor was he charged with a crime, but the deputy seized the money because he suspected that the driver was on his way to California to purchase drugs. In reality, Gorman was on his way to Sacremento to visit his girlfriend.
It is worth noting that drug-sniffing dogs can be trained to alert handlers in a way that encroaches on the Fourth Amendment’s protection against “unreasonable searches and seizures.” Radley Balko recently explained this problem, noting that “we’ve bred into domestic dogs a trait that trumps that ability — a desire to read us and to please us.”
“If a drug dog isn’t specifically trained to compensate for this, it will merely read its handler’s body language and confirm its handler’s suspicions about who is and isn’t hiding drugs. This has been confirmed by…