K-9 Drug-Sniffing Dogs and Traffic Stops in California

August 28, 2022 by Madison Ferguson in California  Criminal Defense  
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Waiting on the K-9 Unit

A trained police dog is used in a canine smell test, also known as a police dog sniff test, to hunt for evidence of criminal activity. Police dogs are often used to smell illicit narcotics during a police search since they may be taught to recognize a wide range of substances.

Officers often employ dog smell tests while searching for evidence without being able to go through someone’s items owing to privacy concerns. Canines, for example, are often seen sniffing through the bags of travelers suspected of bringing narcotics into the country. Police dogs may also be employed to smell a person’s clothing for narcotics. Police officers also use sniffer dogs during routine traffic stops.

The Fourth Amendment does not ban the use of a dog to sniff out goods in public, as long as the dog is legally present and the behavior is reasonable. To ensure that the person’s 4th Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches is not violated, the police must adhere to a set of guidelines. You should be aware of the following rules if you are pulled over for a traffic check and a canine is being used to search your vehicle:

  • The police must reasonably believe that you are guilty of a crime to pull you over. When it comes to drug-sniffing dogs, they don’t require any probable cause or reasonable suspicion. For example, the police may stop your automobile for a broken taillight and then send a canine to search your vehicle for hidden contraband inside.
  • The duration of the canine sniff test cannot exceed the length of a typical traffic stop. Sniffing by a dog after the time allotted for the traffic check has expired, for example, makes the search unlawful.
  • Stopping traffic for a canine sniff is strictly prohibited. It’s prohibited for officers to stand about till a police dog comes.

How Can a Traffic Stop Offense Be Suppressed?

If a court judges that the police had no reasonable suspicion to justify delaying a driver, yet the motorist was nonetheless delayed, any evidence unearthed as a consequence of that delay will be suppressed, which means that it cannot be used against that motorist in court. The sheer smell of marijuana is no longer sufficient for California law enforcement authorities to justify a search during a traffic stop since marijuana is lawful now in California.

For anyone who is in a situation where they are stopped by federal law enforcement, it is crucial to keep in mind that federal law prohibits all cannabis possession and consumption.

Rights You Have Over a K-9 Search & Seizure

Anyone who has been stopped for a traffic search should take advantage of the protections the government provides like:

  1. An officer should have probable cause to search your vehicle or residence. In American law enforcement, drug dogs may be used to prove probable cause, but it should not take long.
  2. Many individuals are unaware they have the right to refuse a search of their vehicle if a police officer requests one. If you provide your permission, the police may search your car. Sniffing your automobile with a drug dog, on the other hand, does not need permission from an officer. Probable cause exists for an officer to search your car without your permission if a dog detects anything during a search.
  3. If the officer doesn’t have a drug dog, they’ll need more than just reasonable suspicion to hold you while they wait for the drug dog to arrive at the site of the traffic stop. During this time, you can ask the officer, “Am I permitted to leave?”
  4. You have the right to stay quiet and resist any searches if the police detain you. You cannot be harmed or used against you by refusing to allow a police officer to examine your car or things.

You might need to speak with an attorney if you’ve been stopped and exposed to a police canine sniff test during the traffic stop. Having a drug lawyer on your side may help you establish if the results of a dog sniffing test could be used against you in court.

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How to Win Your Case

We cannot stress enough that you read, understand and follow these 10 basic rules if you are criminally charged or under investigation:

  1. Don’t ever talk to the police
  2. Do not discuss your case with anyone
  3. Everything you tell your lawyer is confidential
  4. Tell police you need to contact your attorney
  5. Never consent to any search by the police
  6. If the police knock on your door, don't answer!
  7. Realize the consequences of a criminal conviction
  8. Your lawyer (not you) will contact any witnesses
  9. Information on your cell phone is evidence
  10. Early Intervention is the key

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