Supreme Court: Drug dogs can be used to establish probable cause

person with pills

Police have a lot of power when investigating alleged criminal activity. If they suspect an individual may be involved in the distribution of illegal drugs, they will often conduct extensive investigations into the suspect. Despite these powers, police must still adhere to the rights afforded to citizens in the U.S. Constitution, specifically protections against searches and seizures that would violate the Fourth Amendment.

Dogs Being Used to Establish Probable Cause

A recent Supreme Court case addressed the use of drug-detecting dogs to establish probable cause to search a vehicle in a Florida traffic stop. After the officer pulled a motorist over, the man was observed demonstrating signs that were consistent with drug use. The officer asked the man for permission to search his vehicle, which was refused.

The officer then led a drug-detecting dog around the truck to see if the dog alerted to the presence of any drugs. The dog indicated on the vehicle's door handle, a place where drug residue is frequently found. Based upon this hit, the man's vehicle was searched, and drugs were found.

The man was charged with several drug crimes, but the lower courts ruled that the dog's alert was not enough to give the officer probable cause to search the man's vehicle. They had ruled that the officer needed to establish a success rate in order to rely upon its indications.

In this case, the officer did not record evidence of the dog's failed alerts. The officer only recorded instances where the dog alerted, and then a subsequent arrest for a drug crime was made.

The defense had argued that police should not be relying on these dogs to supply the probable cause necessary to search a motorist's vehicle, as officers could give the dog subtle clues in an effort to get the dog to indicate drugs are present.

The Court's Ruling

However, the Court disagreed with this logic, stating that if one of these dogs had received the proper training, that alerts could be used to establish the probable cause necessary to perform the search. The dog in this case had received sufficient training, so the Court concluded that the alert was valid.

This ruling could drastically impact the number of individuals being charged with drug crimes. If officers suspect that drugs may be present, they may bring these dogs to the scene simply to see if they find anything.

Get in Touch with The Law Offices of Daniel J. Miller

These are cases with very serious consequences. If you find yourself facing drug charges, speak to an experienced Virginia Beach criminal defense attorney about your options. You need to know what you can do to present a strong defense to these accusations.

A conviction may jeopardize several aspects of your life, including your ability to work in certain professions. The penalties will only increase for additional criminal convictions, so pleading guilty will not necessarily allow you to put the case behind you quickly.

Receive the aggressive defense you need by calling The Law Offices of Daniel J. Miller - free consultation!

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