Dogs and Evidence: Sniffing Out the Truth?


Dogs and Evidence: Sniffing Out the Truth?

Colleen Collins Website


There's been some stories lately in the media about people being falsely accused of crimes based on "dog sniff" evidence. These stories are interesting for writers, too, as some of us might be crafting a story with police dogs or an instance where a dog's sense of smell seemingly points to evidence.

Using Drug-Sniffing Dogs in Legal Cases

Puppy Bloodhound
Puppy Bloodhound

Police dogs are trained to detect certain odors, such as scents from the human body or the odors emitted by illegal drugs. However, there is a high possibility of a false positive because in a drug case, for example, the presence of an odor does not necessarily mean contraband was located in a targeted area. From a brief to the U.S. Supreme Court, the SCOTUSblog recently quoted an analysis of three years of data from suburban Chicago police departments, which stated that only 44 percent of alerts by dogs to vehicles in roadside encounters produced drugs or paraphernalia.

Using Dogs to Sniff Out the Guilty in Line-Ups

There's also been a problem relying on dogs to sniff out guilty people in police line-ups. In 2004, the FBI warned that dog scent work "should not be used as primary evidence" but only to corroborate other evidence. The New York Times story Picked from a Lineup, on a Whiff of Evidence tells the story of two men who each served months in prison based on a police dog selecting them from lineups despite there being no other evidence that the men were guilty of the crimes. In one case, Ronald Curtis was "sniffed" out to be guilty of burglary although surveillance video of the crime showed that Curtis didn't at all resemble the burglar.

To see some wonderful pictures of police dogs (from the blog CrimLaw), click here.

The Bloodhound Nose

Army Dog in Helicopter

JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq Staff Sgt. Philip Mendoza, 332nd Security Forces Group military working dog handler, pets his MWD Rico, wearing doggles, during training aboard a helicopter

Several years ago, I took a workshop from a private investigator who specialized in bloodhound searches. Here's a few facts about bloodhounds and their smelling abilities:

•A bloodhound can smell a 6-week-old human fingerprint.
•A bloodhound holds all records for trailing (a 17-day-old trail and 138 miles)
•Their drools and slobber help humidify and steam the scent, thus enhancing it. Their nose membranes stay moist so scent molecules can reach olfactory receptor sites easily.
•Their long ears scoop up scent.
•Their loose skin helps get through underbrush and holds scent near the head.
•Their deep chest allows processing of lots of air by the nose.


Colleen Collins

Colleen Collins is an award-winning author who has written several dozen novels for Harlequin and Dorchester, as well as four indie nonfiction books on private investigations and lawyers (two co-authored with Shaun Kaufman), and two indie mysteries, The Ungrateful Dead, prequel to The Zen Man, and The Zen Man.

Her books have placed first in the Colorado Gold, Romancing the Rockies, and Top of the Peak contests, and placed in the finals for the Holt Medallion, Coeur de Bois Readers Choice, Award of Excellence, More than Magic, and Romance Writers of America RITA contests.

After graduating with honors from the University of California Santa Barbara, Colleen worked as a film production assistant, improv comic, telecommunications manager at the RAND Corporation, technical writer/editor, speech writer, and private investigator. All these experiences play into her writing.

She’s a member of the Mystery Writers of America (MWA), Private Eye Writers of America (PWA), Romance Writers of America (RWA), and Sisters in Crime.

When not sleuthing, Colleen’s hanging with her two Rottweilers (named Jack Nicholson and Aretha Franklin), her three cats, and plotting or writing her next book.

To see more of Colleen Collins Scroll down to the bottom of the page to view her member details
Or visit Colleen Collins Website

Images used for the article can be viewed on their copyright sites by click the image except.
Image used for our social media card Puppy Bloodhound

Image used on this page
Staff Sgt. Philip Mendoza and Rico
JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq Staff Sgt. Philip Mendoza, 332nd Security Forces Group military working dog handler, pets his MWD Rico, wearing doggles, during training aboard a helicopter.

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There has been some stories lately in the media about people being falsely accused of crimes based on dog sniffing evidence. These stories are interesting for writers, too, as some of us might be crafting a story with...

Secrets of a Real-Life Female Private Eye by Colleen Collins

SECRETS OF A REALLIFE FEMALE PRIVATE EYE is a partmemoir, partreference nonfiction book based on the experiences of a professional private investigator and writer. Audiences: researchers, writers, detectivefiction fans, armchair detectives and those curious about the real world of private investigators.
The beauty of ebooks is their being an interactive medium. To fully enjoy SECRETS OF A REALLIFE FEMALE PRIVATE EYE, read it where you have access to the Internet.......



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