Anyone in Texas and across the United States who has watched a television or film drama about drugs will have a basic knowledge of drug sniffing dogs. These trained animals are used by local and federal law enforcement to try and catch people who are carrying illegal drugs. They are visible at border crossings, at airports, are called to the scene after a traffic stop in which an officer is suspicious that drugs are in a vehicle, and are brought to a person’s residence to see if drugs are detected. This often sparks a debate as to its legality and how far law enforcement can go in using these tactics. Search and seizure is a complicated area of the law and drug dogs have been a source of debate for years. When there is an arrest after a drug sniffing dog was used, it is important to understand how the evidence found can be called into question.
Protections against illegal search and seizure
According to the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, search and seizure is presumed to be unreasonable if the officer does not have a warrant. However, there are times when an officer can conduct a search without a warrant. If officers observe a person who is behaving in a way that makes it reasonable to believe there is criminal behavior taking place, then it is legal to stop and question the person. The same is true if there was a traffic stop. That could result in probable cause to search and drugs could be found with a K-9.
Some cases involve a traffic stop in which an officer sees an item in the vehicle that is suspected to be drugs and then brings in a K-9 unit to sniff the vehicle and check if the dog indicates that drugs are present. Even if drugs are found to be present, the circumstances are foundational as to whether the evidence will be admissible. One case that went all the way to the Supreme Court involved a driver who had been subject to a traffic stop and was made to wait at the scene until a drug dog was brought to the scene even though the officer had completed the investigation and had no justifiable reason to keep the driver there. The dog arrived, found drugs and the man was arrested. Because he was forced to wait for up to eight minutes without reason, the man was protected under the Fourth Amendment.
There are ways to combat an arrest made from a drug sniffing dog
People who are facing drug crimes after a dog indicated there were drugs present in a car, a home or on a person will inevitably be worried about how they can formulate an effective defense. The dog sniffing the drugs and an officer finding them might seem like an open and shut case. Still, there are ways to lodge a defense. This is especially impactful to a person who is young, just starting out in life and is suddenly facing criminal charges even though his or her rights might have been violated. From the outset, understanding the law related to drug sniffing dogs is key and there may be more ways to lodge an effective defense that the person might think.