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School district trustees voted unanimously Tuesday to allow Pleasanton police dogs to stroll through the parking lots of the high schools to conduct random warrantless searches. The dogs reportedly will be allowed inside the physical education locker rooms when students are not present to sniff for contraband. Additionally, the high school principals will be authorized to seek approval to request warrantless searches.

Four of the five trustees voted to delay implementation of the new dog sniff protocol until the school district can develop a policy for conducting the random warrantless dog sniff searches. Sources say that could take until the end of February. One of the trustees voted against waiting to develop a policy, saying the drug problem is urgent.

Although the district superintendent claims that the alleged drug problem in Pleasanton schools does not involve every student, presumably, every student may be subject to the police dog scrutiny, even if the student is not involved.

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Tagged in: warrantless search

With today's technology, constitutional issues can involve complex arguments in criminal cases. Last summer, this blog reported that the United states Supreme Court had agreed to review whether law enforcement's use of a global positioning system device without a warrant during a drug crime investigation was done in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Monday, the high court ruled unanimously that the Constitution requires law enforcement to obtain a warrant.

Although all nine justices ruled that the Constitution requires law enforcement to obtain a warrant, some questions may arise in the future from the Supreme Court ruling.

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A late December probation check may lead to a three-strike prison sentence for a man from Southern California. Two deputies showed up at a motel in Old Town Victorville looking for a probationer. A man that the deputies say they were not looking for ended up being charged with possession of methamphetamine.

When law enforcement arrived at the motel, there were apparently five people in the motel room. Deputies claim that a 32-year-old man, who is believed to be a Blood gang member, tried to close the door on the deputies. They say they kicked in the door. What may have happened next is also open to dispute.

Prosecutors claim that the man who had shut the door on the deputies dove onto the bed when law enforcement kicked in the door. The man accused of diving on the bed says he was pushed toward the bed as the deputies exploded through the door.

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During the same week that the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision to leave eyewitness identification analysis alone, the high court threw out a murder conviction because prosecutors did not disclose that an eyewitness who testified against the defendant at trial initially told police that he could not identify the killer. For nearly 50 years, prosecutors have known that the Constitution requires that the state must turn over material evidence that prosecutors have that may be favorable to the criminal defense.

In overturning the criminal conviction, Chief Justice John Roberts writes, "We have observed that evidence impeaching an eyewitness may not be material if the state's other evidence is strong enough to sustain confidence in the verdict." Eight justices on the Supreme Court agreed in Tuesday's ruling that the prosecutor's failure to disclose the evidence in the murder case violated the defendant's rights, requiring a reversal of the conviction. Justice Clarence Thomas was alone in dissent.

The case arose from allegations surrounding a 1995 shooting. Five people were killed during an armed robbery in a New Orleans home. During the trial, an eyewitness told the jury that he had been "face to face with [the defendant] during the initial moments of the robbery." The Supreme Court says that testimony was the only evidence the prosecutors had linking the defendant to the crime.

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After she made the identification of the hand-cuffed man, law enforcement brought the woman to the police station to look at a photo-lineup. She could not identify the man. Nonetheless, the man was convicted of theft charges and sentenced prison on the East Coast. The identification procedure used was the focus of a recent U.S. Supreme Court case.

The issue of unduly suggestive police identification procedures has been argued in court rooms and law schools all across the country for years. Over the past 30 years roughly 2,000 studies have been conducted on the issue. This blog discussed the eyewitness identification issues in last August.

One law professor writes in his book, "Convicting the Innocent," that of the first 250 people who were exonerated by DNA testing after being wrongfully convicted, as many as 190 were convicted through the testimony of a mistaken eyewitness identification.

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