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Ferguson-Smith, Melissa and Ware, Sharon. Evidentiary Issues Surrounding Accelerants Detected By Canines. American Bar Association Annual Meeting, August 9, 1993.

Abstract: This article discusses evidence obtained from a canine detection team and how it is used in court. The author summarizes and explains many cases that have set precedents in the subject.

In State v. Acevedo, the court admitted into evidence samples that a dog identified as containing an accelerant, but which a lab could not detect any accelerants. The court allowed the canine handler to testify to the accuracy of a trained canine and explain how a canine is more sensitive than a laboratory. There are also other cases in which canine handlers or chemists have testified that a canine is able to detect small amounts of accelerants that a lab cannot.

In People v. Pristell the court allowed testimony regarding a canine's involvement and went further to allow the jury to see a videotape showing the dog "alerting" to accelerants. However, the judge denied a live demonstration by the canine.

In State v. York, the defendant was found guilty of arson. During his appeal, the defendant claimed that his fourth amendment rights were violated due to the search of the fire scene without a warrant. The court upheld his conviction stating that the defendant had no valid expectation of privacy in fire scene debris.

Accelerant detection canines are assisting prosecutors in convicting arsonists by providing stronger evidence. The courts are continually setting precedents regarding this relatively new issue.

 
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