Posted on 9/16/19

According to studies, dogs can smell 100,000 times better than humans. This makes it no surprise that dogs are used by the police to detect illegal substances. This might also make you wonder what limits the law places on animals with such an amazing sense of smell. Can the police use them whenever they want? What are your rights when it comes to traffic stops and dogs?


What the Supreme Court Says


SCOTUS ruled in 2005 about how drug sniffing dogs can be used. Police are not required to have a reasonable suspicion that drugs are present to use drug dogs at a traffic stop. They decided that it is not aviolation of a person’s Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures. Because the dogs only detect illegal substances, and no one has a reasonable expectation of privacy when it comes to illegal substances, there does not need to be reasonable suspicion to use the dogs on the scene of a traffic stop.


What can a Dog do at a Traffic Stop?


Although it was found that a drug sniffing dog can be used at a routine traffic stop, they are only allowed to walk the dog around the outside of the vehicle. If a dog signals that it has found an illegal substance, then the police have probable cause to search the inside of the vehicle. However, police are not allowed to hold a person indefinitely until a dog can be brought to the scene of the traffic stop. They can only detain people for as long as it takes to perform a routine stop.


Whatconstitutes a normal period of time for a traffic stop is a bit of a gray area, but the court will likely use a “reasonable person” approach when deciding if the stop lasted too long. If the police choose to keep a person on the side of a roadway just because they are waiting on a drug sniffing dog to arrive, this is a violation of the Fourth Amendment. If this happens, the court may suppress the evidence that was collected during the search, which may result in the entire case getting thrown out of court.


Limitations of the Ruling


Although it sounds like the police have almost free reign when it comes to using their drug dogs, that is not the case in every situation. This ruling only applies to using drug sniffing dogs at traffic stops. Dogs cannot be used when people are stopped on foot or when a person is walking across a street or parking lot. TheFourth Amendment provides protection for the legitimate privacy interests of a person and the police are required to respect this right to privacy.


Contact an Experienced Attorney Today


If you have been charged with possession of drugs and the police used a drug sniffing dog to find the drugs you may have a variety of legal defense options available to you. The attorneys atAbel Law Firm can review your case and help you understand your rights and options. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.


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