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Court rules police dog exterior search of vehicle OK

When a police dog sniffs the outside of a vehicle, it is not an illegal search under the Fourth Amendment.

That's what the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled Wednesday. The justices upheld the 2005 arrest of Ramon Arias of Colby.

According to the ruling, a Colby-Abbotsford police officer saw Arias put liquor into a car driven by a girl he knew to be 17.

He stopped the car because he thought it was illegal for underage people to drive with any liquor in a vehicle.

A police dog sniffed around the car and the officer then searched the vehicle. He found a switchblade on Arias, along with a bag that appeared to be cocaine.

Based on that, Arias was charged with illegal possession of a switch-blade knife and possessing cocaine within 1,000 feet of a school zone.

At a preliminary hearing, a Clark County judge threw out the knife and drug evidence, saying the dog's discovery amounted to an illegal search.

The state appealed and the Supreme Court voted 4-3 to side with the police.

The court's three liberal judges were the ones who dissented -- Shirley Abrahamson, Louis Butler and Ann Walsh Bradley.

Justice Pat Roggensack said the U.S. Supreme Court had already ruled that a police dog sniffing a vehicle's exterior did not constitute an official search.