When Can Police Use Drug Dogs?

In Illinois v. Caballes the USSC (“U.S. Supreme Court”) found that reasonable suspicion is not necessary when it comes to the use of drug dogs during a traffic stop. As long as the stop simply involves sniffs.  The Court ruled that the fourth amendment is not tarnished, impeded, stepped on, or disrespected is not when officers use drug dogs to sniff a car during a legal traffic stop. Since dog sniffs only identify the presence of illegal items citizens have no legitimate privacy interest in dog sniffs and the fourth amendment doesn’t apply.

So…What Does This Mean For The Average Owner/User/Driver Of A Vehicle?

This means that drug dogs can sniff on all sides of your locomotive at any legal stop. If the dog signals to the officer that there is a presence of narcotics, then the officers have probable cause to conduct a search. However, contrary to popular belief the Caballes ruling does not give the officers the ability to detain you longer than is reasonable for the dogs to arrive.  If the police pull you over and want to do a search. They can only detain you for the regular length of time for a regular traffic stop. If they hold you or threaten to call the dogs and it takes an hour or so to get the dogs there for a search, they have gone outside their authority. Remember, you never have to consent to a search.

Before the K-9 unit arrives, you should exercise your right to be free from illegal searches and seizures. Simply ask the if your free to go. If the officer says you are not free to go remember you have the right to remain silent and do not have to answer any of his questions or consent to any searches. If the K-9 unit arrives in a reasonable time, you can refuse to consent to a dog sniff, even if the police officer tells you that you have to adhere to it. Remember giving the officer the keys or leaving the door unlocked is basically a consent to search. Thus you should both lock the car and refuse to give the officer your keys unless you are being arrested or detained. Do not be afraid to repeat the phrase “Officer, I know you’re doing your job, but,  I don’t consent to any searches.” If the court determines at a following proceeding that you the officer had no justification to detain you until the arrival of the K-9 unit any evidence found could potentially be found out.

What this ruling does not do

Caballes only really clarifies previous rulings where the Court was not solid on its rulings. It does not apply to  circumstances other than traffic stops. Dog sniffs in store parking lots are not generally relied upon Caballes. Random drug checkpoints of course have been found to be unconstitutional.

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1 thought on “When Can Police Use Drug Dogs?

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