Illegal Drug Searches using Dogs

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drug dog conducting an illegal searchThe Supreme Court recently decided two cases that have a large impact on drug searches using dogs.  The cases move in opposite directions, one taking away some of the rights of a Defendant, while the other case increased the rights of a Defendant.

The first case that was recently decided was Florida v. Harris.  In that case, the police had used a dog to search a car for drugs.  The cout then had to decide whether the accuracy of the dog can make the search unlawful.  For example, if the dog can be shown to be wrong every single time, can the dog’s bark be used to justify a search?  Well, the answer is yes.  Regardless of the accuracy of the dog, as long as the dog has gone through a certification program, the dog’s bark can always justify a search.  This unfortunate situation will probably result in dog training that motivates a dog to bark at anything so that the police can always be justified in searching the car.  Essentially, the Supreme Court has handed police officers a golden ticket to search any car at will.

The second case that was recently decided involved the use of a dog on a person’s front porch.  In that case, the Supreme Court held that a warrant is required before a police officer can use a dog to sniff a person’s front porch.  In other words, a police officer would be conducting an illegal search if they show up on your front door without a warrant and with a dog.  But you should keep in mind that police officer’s who show up with dogs tend to have enough evidence to believe that drugs are in the house to be able to get a warrant if they want one.

Also, police already tend to tell people that they will wait outside of the house until they have a warrant if the person does not consent to letting the police search the house.  This game usually results in the person allowing the police to search which obviously then results in a drug case.

It is important to remember that you have rights until you waive them.  If the police are telling you that they are going to get a warrant, then you should make them go get a warrant.  Do not waive your Constitutional rights.  At the very least, you will give yourself a fighting chance in court.


The information in this post is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or as the creation of an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice, please contact an Attorney.

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Nathaniel has worked in criminal law on both sides of the aisle spending time working for the prosecution as well as the defense. Most recently Nathaniel has represented individuals in violent felonies and drug cases. Prior to this work, Nathaniel handled DWIs, Domestic Violence Cases, Property Crimes, and White Collar Crimes. On the prosecutorial side, Nathaniel has most notably worked in Bosnia helping to prosecute individuals who committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Bosnian War from 1993-1995. In particular, Nathaniel helped in the prosecution of military leaders who arranged for the organized murders and rapes of innocent civilians in various towns in Bosnia. Nathaniel is a graduate of the University of Texas School of Law, Northwestern University, and Phillips Exeter Academy. Google Profile: Nathaniel Baca