The Third Branch
Dane County judges, attorneys learn about dogs
By Gail Richardson, District Court Administrator, Fifth Judicial District
Dane County Deputy Jay O'Neil, Hunter and Dane County Circuit Judge Nicholas J. McNamara, following a demonstration on the use of dogs to search for possible evidence.
On Sept. 16, the Dane County Sheriff's K-9 Unit provided a demonstration of a drug-sniffing dog search to judges and prosecutors. Deputy Jay O'Neil and "Hunter" showed how specially designed boxes are used in training and how real-life searches are conducted.
Licensed contraband was hidden in several places within the courtroom and Hunter quickly and enthusiastically identified each item. Deputy O'Neil and Sgt. Kris Boyd of the Madison Police Department described training, testing and certification procedures. The two agencies train together, and they say all dogs approved by the two departments for use in the field are certified with a training success rate of 96 percent or better.
Following the demonstration, Attys. Stephen Hurley, Mark Eisenberg and Assistant District Atty. Matt Moeser presented arguments on either side of the argument for using the results of dog alerts to justify probable cause for a search warrant. Hurley distributed an outline of relevant law. The debate centered on the reliability of individual dogs and how information about that should be presented to the judge, along with the application for a warrant, in the form of the dog's success rate. Also discussed were the standards that should be set and used to measure a dog's reliability and the science (or lack thereof) of dog scenting capabilities.