Do drug sniffing dogs violate your rights?

Police dogs often have various roles. Some can help locate missing children, detect cadavers, chase suspects and sniff out illegal substances. Though most people will praise a dog that helps locate a missing child, the situation can be different when the dog alerts an officer to illegal substances in your vehicle.

You, like many other people, may question the reliability of drug dogs and their ability to accurately alert officers to illegal substances. You may also wonder whether an officer has violated your rights by allowing a drug dog to sniff your vehicle even though you have not given any reason for an officer to suspect that drugs are inside your vehicle.

Does drug dog use violate your rights?

Though the use of drug dogs has come under scrutiny before, the Supreme Court has ruled that the use of drug dogs does not violate Fourth Amendment rights, meaning those relating to unreasonable searches and seizures. This ruling stemmed from the idea that this action does not violate a person's right to privacy since the dogs only alert to illegal substances. 

In order to allow a drug dog to sweep a vehicle, officers must have first made a legitimate traffic stop. This means that an officer cannot simply take a drug dog into a parking lot and allow it to sniff random vehicles.

Can the situation violate your rights?

Though the specific use of a drug dog to find probable cause to search your vehicle does not violate your rights, the officer could come into questionable territory if he or she attempts to make you wait an extended period of time for a drug dog to arrive. Typically, patrol officers do not have a drug dog with them, meaning that they would have to call a K-9 unit to the site of the stop.

If the officer does not have a legitimate reason to detain you until the drug dog arrives, making you wait nonetheless could violate your rights. If a drug dog shows up after a prolonged detainment and alerts to illegal substances, the court may consider any evidence uncovered in a subsequent search inadmissible due to that unlawful detainment.

Defending against charges

If a drug dog alert led to a search of your vehicle and resulted in you facing criminal charges, you will want to write down every detail about the stop that you can remember. If an Illinois officer acted inappropriately, you may have reason to use that information as part of your criminal defense. By having a record of what happened at the ready, you could go over this information with an experienced attorney who could help you determine whether any violations of your rights occurred.

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