Marijuana and Cannabis News
By Steve Elliott ~alapoet~ in News
Monday, October 22, 2012 at 12:20 pm
|City of Carrollton, Texas|
|Carrollton Police Officer Jeremy Sanchez, left, and K-9 "Bosko": A Texas court accepted police claims that Bosko smelled marijuana on money, under a bed, in a gym bag, in a back room of the house -- from under the garage door|
In $27,877.00 Current Money of the United States v. The State of Texas, an asset forfeiture case, the Carrollton Police Department alleged their dog "Bosko" was able to "sniff" and "alert" -- from under a garage door -- on the mere scent of marijuana on currency concealed in a gym bag under a bed in a back room of the defendant's parent's home.
The trial court accepted this, and the appellate court agreed!
"...In March 2007, Carrollton Police Department Narcotics Officer Mai Tran received information from a confidential informant that Roberts was trafficking marihuana and alprazolam (also known as Xanax) from a house in The Colony, Texas, where Roberts lived with his girlfriend and some friends. Officer Tran obtained a search warrant from the City of Carrollton magistrate (with jurisdiction in Dallas and Denton counties) and executed the warrant on Malone Avenue, The Colony, Texas (the Malone address), in Denton County."
|Law Offices of David Sloane|
|Attorney David Sloane: "This indeed is an amazing dog!"|
Upon searching the Malone address, Carrollton Police officers found 8.5 tablets of alprazolam, two tablets of hydrocodone, 4.48 grams of marijuana, and $4,857 in cash, according to the police report. Roberts was arrested.
After the arrest, Officer Tran got additional information that Roberts -- fearing police would raid his home -- had moved drugs and money to two other places. Specifically, the information was that Roberts had moved drugs to the house of Javes Savoldi, a friend and alleged "runner" for Roberts, and had moved money to Roberts's parents' house.
Carrollton Police Officer Jeremy Sanchez, a canine handler, and his dog, Bosko, performed a "sniff search" on Savoldi's home on Freeman Drive in The Colony, Texas (the Freeman address), in Denton County. Bosko "alerted" to an odor at the front door of the house.
Based on the information from an informant and the sniff search, Officer Tran got a search warrant for the Freeman address.
Savoldi admitted to the police, during the search, that he was holding the marijuana for Roberts. Savoldi had hidden a black gym bag with about two pounds of marijuana at the Freeman address.
When he heard from Roberts's girlfriend that the police had searched the Malone address, Savoldi took the bag of marijuana from his house to a hotel in Addison, Texas, where it was later confiscated by Carrollton Police officers, according to the report. Roberts pleaded guilty to the felony offense of possession of more than four ounces but less than five pounds of marijuana.
While in jail, Roberts made a phone call, telling an unknown person that "the money" was in a bag under his brother's bed at Roberts's parents house, on Archer Drive, The Colony, Texas (the Archer address). (By the way, revealing potentially incriminating information over a jailhouse phone is a spectacularly bad idea.)
Officer Sanchez, along with Bosko, conducted a sniff search around the exterior of the Archer address, and Bosko alerted at the bottom of the garage door. Officer Tran got a search warrant for the Archer address from the same magistrate in Carrollton as the previous two warrants, and executed the third warrant.
There, the police found $23,020 under the brother's bed, in bills of various denominations, tied with hair bands. In a written statement to the police, Roberts's brother denied any knowledge or ownership of the money.
The money seized from the Archer address was taken to the Carrollton Police Station, where Officer Sanchez conducted another sniff search. This time, he took three new paper bags and put the money in one of them.
Each bag was closed by folding over the top, and all three bags were placed in a hallway about six feet apart. Bosko alerted on the sack containing the money, according to the arrest report.
The trial court found Bosko's sniff search, among other facts, was enough to create a "nexus" between the seized money and the marijuana to warrant an asset forfeiture where the government gets to keep the money.
On appeal, the Fort Worth Court of Appeals held, "At trial, it was the State's burden to establish, by a preponderance of the evidence, a substantial nexus or connection between the property to be forfeited and the statutorily defined criminal activity, which it may do by circumstantial evidence. ... That is, the State must show that it must be more reasonable that not that the money was derived from the sale of controlled substances. Considering all the evidence in this case, we cannot say that the foregoing evidence is so weak or the evidence to the contrary is so overwhelming that the judgment should be set aside. See Garza, 395 S.W.2d at 823. ... Accordingly, we hold that the evidence is factually sufficient to support the trial court's determination."
However, the potential outlandishness of these claims concerning Bosko's seemingly supernatural abilities did not escape the notice of the justices in their dissenting opinion.
"After the police seized the money from underneath the bed, it was taken, presumably, in a police unit that had transported drugs and drug users in the past -- if police testimony of all the drugs found hidden behind the back seats of police units is to be believed -- to the Carrollton police station, where Officer Sanchez put the money in one of three brand new paper bags," stated the dissenting opinion.
"Again, one wonders how many drugs and drug users had been brought into the Carrollton police station before the cash in question arrived and how thoroughly either the police station or the police car was cleaned between seizures," the dissenting opinion stated.
"Miraculously, the Amazing Bosko alerted on the sack containing the money," attorney Sloane said. "Apparently, Bosko had solved the case and provided Officer Sanchez with the provenance of the money.
"Bosko 'proved' to the police that Roberts owned the money and that it was contraband as proceeds from the sale of narcotics," Sloane said.
"This indeed is an amazing dog!"