Search (877) 728-9653

Drug Dog Searches

Schedule A Free Consultation
Complete The Form Below
An Attorney Will Contact You Within 24hrs

First Name: *
Last Name: *
Phone: *
Email: *
Questions/ Comments: *

Drug Dog Searches

One of the questions that were posed to me is this: please explain to me how a drug dog can be lawfully used as a basis to conduct a search. Well, simply put, how can a police dog be used at a traffic stop? How can the use of a dog take a traffic stop from one of a consenting encounter, meaning the law enforcement officer speaking to a subject, to one where that law enforcement officer has a legal right to conduct a search of that vehicle, where that right did not previously exist? This is how it works: someone gets pulled over for lets’ say speeding or some other civil infraction, and the law enforcement officer makes an observation of that individual and has a belief based upon his or her training or experience that person may be transporting or possessing narcotics. Well, how does that happen? It looks like someone who may be in narcotic trade or the have some speech or manner, something about their person or where they’re coming from that leads that officer to believe that there may be drugs in the car. That officer asks to search the vehicle. If that person says no, you don’t have my permission. Then they law enforcement officer may have the ability to conduct the search if a drug enforcement dog is present on the premises and alerts, that means reacts to a specific area of the vehicle, and subsequently to that search drugs are found that can be a basis for a lawful search. 

The Supreme Court of the United States took a look at this very fact scenario in 2005 in the Supreme Court case of Illinois vs. Roy Caballes. In that case, Mr. Caballes had been stopped lawfully for an infraction and while he was being pulled over a K-9 officer heard over the radio that the traffic stop was in play and there was possibly the presence of narcotics. That K-9 officer got to the scene in less than 10 minutes, took his dog around the perimeter of the vehicle, and the dog alerted or gave his master a sign that he detected narcotics in the trunk. And low and behold in the trunk was found a large quantity of marijuana for which Mr. Caballes was convicted and sentenced for 12 years. The Supreme Court took a look at this issue. If a person is pulled over or confined for a very short period of time lawfully and a drug dog shows up and alerts, provided that drug dog a pedigree that were trained properly and they could articulate to the court how the alert works, is that reasonable to establish probable cause to the search. The Supreme Court said yes. So if a drug dog is brought to a scene of a traffic stop and within a reasonable amount of time he alerts on a substance in a trunk, in a panel, somewhere in that vehicle, it is lawful. It has been found that a drug dog’s sense of smell is 50 times greater that than of a human and it can be used as a basis for probable cause to establish a lawful search.


The criminal defense attorneys at Carlson, Meissner, Hart & Hayslett, P.A. are fighting for our clients rights in criminal defense cases in ClearwaterTampaBradentonSpring Hill, Pinellas, Pasco, New Port Richey, Manatee, Hillsborough and Hernando Counties in Florida.

Se Habla Español.

J. Kevin Hayslett

Kevin Hayslett, Esq.

J. Kevin Hayslettis an attorney practicing in the areas of Criminal Defense and DUI Defense from the Clearwater office and Hillsborough office. Kevin is an avid tennis player and is currently nationally rated in singles and doubles. You can follow Kevin onGoogle+, oron Radio IO on his show, "Kevin's Law". Kevin can also be heard on the Sirius Satellite Radio show during the "Ask the Lawyer" segment, which can be heard the first Thursday of every month.