Bristol- When Todd Wheetley stopped Clayton Harris for an expired license tag back in 2006, he had no idea that routine traffic stop would set the standard for K-9 law enforcement officers across the country.
"There was an open beer container... he seemed very nervous" Wheetley said of Harris after approaching his vehicle. "I asked for consent to search his car, he declined. At which point I deployed Aldo to do an open air scent around the exterior of the vehicle."
Aldo alerted to an area around the driver's door handle, where there was residue of chemicals used to make methamphetamine. Harris was taken into custody.
"Post Miranda [rights], Harris stated that he used and manufactured methamphetamine."
But the story was far from over. Harris' lawyer challenged Aldo's reliability due to a lacking of records stating all of Aldo's deployments.
"[The Florida Supreme Court] was trying to deem that he was not accurate based on the training records. I had the deployments, when you put your dog out- I kept the [records for] the ones that led to an arrest, but not on the ones of a non-productive response" Wheetley explained.
Florida Supreme Court Justices ruled Wheetley had violated Harris' 4th Amendment rights.The state appealed the case to the US Supreme Court, which unanimously overturned the state court's decision.
After a seven year court battle, Wheetley said the Supreme Court's decision was not only a win for Aldo, but for law enforcement officers across the country.
"K-9 is a very effective tool-not just in narcotics, but also suspect apprehension " Wheetley said. "It's just like having an officer that carries hand cuffs and tazers- it's an effective tool.
Tuesday, the US Supreme Court also ruled against a Miami Dade K-9 named Franky, saying he and his handler conducted an unreasonable search on a drug suspect.