canine sniffs police dog legal issuesDogs are a powerful tool for law enforcement to find drugs and explosives. Oftentimes, courts, civilians and police officers take a positive hit from a canine as definitive proof that drugs or explosives exist. Unfortunately, dogs, like any other tool, must be calibrated and understood to be used properly. Because officers interpret any reaction from their drug dogs or explosive dogs as a positive hit for what they are looking for, law enforcement will use their canine sniffs as an excuse to search vehicles, bags and homes.

Here are some scenarios and situations to be aware of when dealing with drugs and canine searches.

  1. The temporary detention of luggage in a public place so that a trained dog may sniff it to determine whether drugs are present does not constitute a search.
  2. Walking a narcotics detection dog around the exterior of a car does not constitute a search for drugs because the exterior sniff does not require entry into the car and is not designed to disclose any information other than the presence or absence of drugs.
  1. The United States Supreme Court has held that conducting a canine sniff would not change the character of a traffic stop that is lawful at its inception and otherwise executed in a reasonable manner, unless the sniff itself infringed the respondent’s constitutionally protected interest in privacy. Use of a well-trained drugs detection dog that does not expose non-contraband items that otherwise would remain hidden from public view during a lawful traffic stop generally does not implicate legitimate privacy interests. Thus, a canine sniff performed for drugs on the exterior of a car while the defendant was lawfully seized for a traffic violation does not infringe on the defendant’s privacy expectations.
  1. A canine sniff of a vehicle does not constitute an invasion of privacy and does not violate the defendant’s right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure as long as the dog is “welltrained.”
  1. Absent probable cause, the drug canine sniff must be done during the course of the routine traffic stop to be valid.
  1. Absent reasonable and articulable suspicion, the police may not prolong a routine traffic stop in order to allow time for a drug canine unit to arrive.
  1. It is important to note that a suspicionless canine sniff at a routine traffic stop is not a violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Purav Bhatt is a criminal defense attorney serving the Chicagoland area including Cook, Lake, DuPage and Will counties. If you or a loved one has been charged with a criminal offense contact The Law Office of Purav Bhatt at 773-791-9682.