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Can Drug-Sniffing Dogs Be Used at Traffic Stops?

Dec. 30, 2015

Sometimes a simple traffic stop can lead to an arrest for drug-related or other serious charges. In a number of cases, drugs are found because of K-9 officers trained to detect their scent were called to the scene by officers who suspected that drugs were in the vehicle, but didn't find them "in plain sight."

Is it legal to do this? It's a subject of debate, to be sure.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in April 2015 in one case that using a K-9 officer to sniff out drugs was unconstitutional. In that case, the six justices who ruled in the majority determined that the officer lacked reasonable cause for suspicion and that the traffic stop had been extended in order to bring in the dog based on an officer's "rather large hunch," in the words of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who wrote the majority opinion.

The driver was stopped after reportedly veering off onto the shoulder of the road and then back onto it. He was given no traffic citations beyond a warning ticket when the dog was brought in. The defendant said that he denied the officer permission to let the dog circle the car, but he did it anyway.

A recent local arrest gives rise to the same issue. A 36-year-old man was pulled over by an officer with the Bowling Green Police on Payne Street for allegedly having excessively-tinted windows. However, a K-9 officer working for the Kentucky State Police was called in to walk around the vehicle during the stop. When the dog reportedly responded in a way that indicated that he smelled drugs, officers searched the vehicle. The driver was arrested for trafficking in a controlled substance after officers found over four grams of a substance they believed to be methamphetamine.

If you or a loved one are facing drug charges following what you believe may have been an illegal search, it's essential to seek experienced legal guidance. A criminal defense attorney can help determine whether any evidence discovered was found legally and work to keep it from being used against you if your constitutional rights were violated.

Source: FindLaw, "Drug Dog Search Prolonged Traffic Stop, Says SCOTUS," Mark Wilson, Esq., accessed Dec. 30, 2015