Illegal Search and Seizures with the Use of Drug-Sniffing Dogs

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The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects the right of individuals to be free from unlawful searches and seizures by law enforcement. This means that law enforcement officials must have a probable cause before they may search you or your property or seize any of your property. While the Fourth Amendment defense holds strong, there are some exceptions such as the use of drug-sniffing dogs in lawful traffic stops.

Is it Legal for Police to Use Drug-Sniffing Dogs in a Traffic Stop?

In the 2005 case, Illinois v. Caballes, the Supreme Court ruled that police do not need reasonable suspicion to allow their dogs to sniff a vehicle during a lawful traffic stop. Police use of a drug-sniffing dog does not constitute an actual search. This case ruling gives police the authority to walk a drug-sniffing dog around or near a vehicle during a legitimate traffic stop, even if they do not have a reasonable suspicion that illegal substances are present. If the dog indicates there may be drugs, then police have a probable cause to conduct an actual search. Any illegal substances that may be found during this search can be used against the individual in court.

Is a Warrantless Dog-Sniff Search of a Home Unconstitutional?

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court heard the case Florida v. Jardines. By a 5-4 vote, the Court’s opinion said that specially trained animals looking for evidence of drugs violated the Fourth Amendment and is therefore unconstitutional. The case formed when police took a drug-sniffing dog to Jardines’ front porch and the dog alerted authorities that drugs were present. Based on this alert, the officers obtained a search warrant, which uncovered marijuana plants. Jardines was then charged with trafficking cannabis. The Supreme Court of Florida held that the officers had engaged in a Fourth Amendment search unsupported by a probable cause. Drug-sniffing dogs cannot be used to establish probable cause to search a front porch of a private residence.

How Can You Protect Yourself from Illegal Search and Seizure?

You deserve your right to privacy. If you feel your Fourth Amendment rights have been violated by an illegal search or seizure of your possessions or property contact Glasgow & Olsson today. One of our experienced criminal attorneys will provide you with a free initial consultation when you call 847-577-8700 or fill out our online contact form.