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Driving Off the Face of the Fourth Amendment: Weighing Caballes Under the Proposed "Vehicular Frisk" Standard
Italian Legal Scholarship Unbound Working Paper Series (2008)
  • Christopher M Pardo

This paper explores and explains the socioeconomic and racial effects of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Caballes decision. While society charges law enforcement with eliminating illegal drug activity, the Fourth Amendment rights of every American citizen must also be respected. In Caballes, the Supreme Court held that a dog-sniff does not constitute a Fourth Amendment search, so probable cause is not needed to examine a citizen’s vehicle using a drug dog. While Caballes may be effective in helping police battle a burgeoning drug trade, as it allows police to walk a drug-detection dog around any lawfully stopped vehicle, it also creates a situation ripe for the exploitation of underprivileged citizens. This article discusses how the Supreme Court could have created fair and just results. Some alternative holdings also would have been more logical and could have effectuated a better balance of personal and government interests. Thus, in the absence of even the merest other reasonable suspicion, a drug-detection dog’s alert should not be considered enough to merit probable cause. The benefit that jurists practicing in civil law jurisdictions may derive from reading this paper consists in the opportunities for comparative confrontation in the field of criminal law and procedure which it offers. Additionally, it is an example of several features which are distinctive of American constitutional reasoning, first and foremost the tension between federal governmental action and individual rights.

Note: this paper is forthcoming in 43 VALPARAISO UNIVERSITY LAW REVIEW (2008)

  • Search,
  • Fourth Amendment,
  • Illinois v. Caballes,
  • Terry v. Ohio,
  • Kyllo v. United States,
  • Probable cause,
  • Vehicular frisk
Publication Date
Citation Information
Christopher M. Pardo, Driving Off the Face of the Fourth Amendment: Weighing Caballes Under the Proposed 'Vehicular Frisk' Standard, ILSU Working Paper No. 2008-09/EN (2008), available at