Dogs Expert Witness Testimony Allowed With Regard to Traffic Stop

Summary: Plaintiff filed suit against defendants related to a traffic stop involving a canine.  Plaintiff hired a Dogs Expert Witness to provide testimony.  Defendant filed a motion to exclude this expert’s testimony.  The court denied the motion.

Facts: This case (Jackson et al v. City of Bloomington et al – United States District Court – Central District of Illinois – January 15th. 2019) involves a traffic stop.  The plaintiff was pulled over by the defendant for allegedly failing to make a complete stop at a stop sign.  The police brought a canine unit to the scene to conduct a free-air sniff for drugs.  The plaintiffs allege that the officer did not have a legal justification to search the car and that the city has practices policies and customs of prompting false alerts from dogs and improperly training canines.  The plaintiffs have hired Dogs Expert Witness Lehman Papet to provide testimony.  The defendants have filed a motion to exclude the testimony of this expert witness.

The defendants allege that Mr. Papet’s opinions should be excluded because he is a private trainer rather that a police officer, a police department dog trainer, or a member of the various police associations that focus on dog training.  The defendants also argue that Mr. Papet’s opinions do not have any scientific foundation.  The plaintiffs state that Mr. Papet’s extensive experience in dog training together with his numerous publications in the field are enough for him to form a reliable foundation for relevant opinions about the dog’s training and the city’s policies.

The court opines that Mr. Papet has been training law enforcement canines since the 1980s and that more than 50 of his dogs have been certified for drug-sniffing use by the police and by other organizations.  In addition, he has edited a textbook on canine olfaction, and has published numerous articles on the subject, including in peer-reviewed journals.  The court opines that the defendants emphasis on Mr. Papet’s lack of formal education is misplaced.  The court continues by stating that Mr. Paper is clearly being offered as an expert in the training and handling of narcotics detention dogs and has decades of experience in this area.

The defendants also criticize Mr. Papet’s opinions, arguing that they are unreliable because of his lack of education and lack of personal experience as a police officer or police administrator.  The court states that his personal experiene qualifies him as an expert, not his education.

The court also opines that Mr. Papet’s testimony may be of limited value in determining  whether the Bloomington policy comports with Illinois state policies, but it is relevant in determining the nature of the existing, published policies.

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude the expert witness opinion of Lehman Papet is denied.