People v. Grayson (3rd. Dist. 2015) 2015 Cal.App.Unpub. LEXIS 4849

Scent Tracking/Identification

LE was looking for a specific person with the same “basic characteristics” of the defendant. LE saw a male driving a motorcycle, meeting the basic identifiers but wearing distinctive clothing, a helmet and displaying tattoos. LE followed the motorcycle, which ultimately turned into a pursuit with traffic violations and lights and sirens. The motorcyclist finally escaped when it went over some railroad tracks where LE could not follow in patrol car. Air support took over and located the abandoned motorcycle. LE described the motorcyclist for handler officer. Handler’s PSD started barking, an indication that he was “smelling a bad guy,” and handler announced the dog’s imminent deployment. PSD “took off” toward the river, tracking ground and air scents associated with stress and perspiration. PSD jumped into the river, swam approximately 10 yards, returned to shore, located a shirt at the waterline, and tore at it violently to indicate that it was the suspect’s shirt.

After handler retrieved the shirt from PSD’s mouth, the duo continued to follow the scent. PSD led handler along a small bike trail through a wooded area about 100 yards from the shoreline. Then handler heard PSD growling and a male voice screaming or yelling. PSD had located defendant, who was in a sleeping bag that covered most of his lower body. The PSD pursuit lasted 40 minutes. LE identified defendant as the motorcyclist he had been pursuing, testifying that he recognized suspect’s build, short hair, neck tattoo, and distinctive camouflage shoes by brand, pattern, and color. Suspect was wet; his shirt and pants were “saturated.” The sleeping bag defendant was found in was also “completely wet.”

The court held that there was substantial evidence to support the conviction; in particular, LE’s testimony that suspect was the same person he saw on a motorcycle evading him, combined with the evidence of PSD’s tracking and identification of suspect based on stress and perspiration scents, the fact that suspect and his sleeping bag were soaking wet which is consistence with the inference suspect ran through the river to escape and suspect’s bogus statements to LE and his debunked defense at trial.

(Note: standard of proof at trial beyond a reasonable doubt. Standard of proof on appeal is sufficiency of the evidence. Big difference.)