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Drug-Sniffing Dogs and Traffic Stops

Posted On: December 28th, 2015   |   Posted by: Luftman, Heck & Associates LLP

We’ve almost all seen drug-sniffing dogs at work at some point in our lives, whether at the airport or elsewhere. Watching these dogs in action can be fascinating, but their presence can make anyone nervous—innocent or not. It’s no surprise, then, that drug-sniffing dogs can make a nerve-wracking traffic stop even tenser.

So is it legal to get sniffed by a drug identifying dog without your permission? At a legal traffic stop, yes. Under Illinois v. Caballes, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that police can use drug dogs to sniff a vehicle during a legitimate traffic stop whether there is reasonable suspicion that a suspect has illegal drugs or not. This means that it is perfectly legal for police to let a dog sniff around the outside of your car, which may give them probable cause for a search if the dog indicates drugs.

Drug-Sniffing Dogs Not Always Accurate

Advocates have argued against this practice, however, as drug-sniffing dogs are not always accurate. In fact, a 2011 Chicago Tribune investigation found that the department’s drug dogs had a success rate of finding drugs when indicating of just 44 percent. According to studies, this is likely due to the dog’s desire to please their handler, paired with experience that teaches the dog that indicating for drugs makes the handler happy. If your nervousness comes off as suspicious to the police officer pulling you over, the drug dog is likely to sense that you have drugs, whether it smells them or not.

Unfortunately, this has not curtailed the use of drug dogs. In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court has indicated that simply certifying a dog under a recognized program is enough to trust their indication for drugs. Earlier this year, a U.S. Court of Appeals went even farther, refusing to discredit a drug-sniffing dog accurate just 59 percent of the time. If drugs are found in your vehicle after probable cause is established using one of these dogs, you will likely need an experienced drug defense lawyer to devise a strategy for your defense.

It seems that the use of drug-sniffing dogs is here to stay, despite their flaws. That’s why it’s so important that any case involving their use is handled by a dedicated Columbus drug defense lawyer who is aware of the intricacies of laws involving drug-sensing dogs. They will be able to build a defense that is most likely to be successful, despite the evidence provided by the dogs.

If you’ve been arrested on a drug-related charge due in part to the use of drug-sniffing dogs, call the Columbus drug defense lawyers at Luftman, Heck, and Associates right away at (614) 500-3836. Find out how we may be able to help, no matter how hopeless your situation may seem to you.

I can FINALLY breathe easy now. I want to thank Mr. Bowen and all the attorneys that helped me with this case.

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