People v. Barajas (2019) 2019 Cal.App.Unpub. LEXIS 3647

Scent Tracking/Identification; Reliability Foundation

Three casings from a murder scene were put into a bag to transfer the scent to a gauze pad. The suspect was then taken to a 7000 square foot building. After sniffing the gauze pad, PSD was deployed. PSD went down one of three available directions and alerted on suspect. During testimony of handler, it came out that some of the training records that pertained to PSD were lost in a computer crash.

Court applied the standard from Jackson (1 Cal.5th 269) and found 1) handler to be qualified by experience and training to handle the PSD; 2) PSD was adequately trained in tracking humans; 3) PSD has been found to be reliable in tracking humans; 4) PSD was “placed on the track where circumstances indicated the guilty party to have been. Court also cited Jackson, stating “[i]f a well-qualified handler trains a dog who has reliably trailed human scent and is well trained in ignoring or forgetting past smells and in indicating negative trails, then the dog will not trail if the scent on the scent item is stale or nonexistent, or if there is no trail that matches the scent on the scent item. The dog will also be able to distinguish among scents even if there are multiple scents (so-called contamination) either on the scent item or in the trail itself.” Court held the People presented sufficient evidence to meet this standard.