The use of drug-detecting dogs is often a common aspect of many drug crimes investigations. Officers use these dogs to help uncover the evidence that they need to obtain convictions against those arrested for being in possession of the illegal substances that the dogs are trained to detect.
However, the use of these dogs has been the subject of two cases that were currently heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. These rulings may have an impact on many people who have been charged with drug crimes.
Both of these cases originated in Florida. In the first case, an officer observed an individual acting nervously during a traffic stop. The officer asked for permission to search the vehicle, but the motorist refused.
The officer then led his drug-detecting dog around the vehicle to see if the dog would indicate that illegal drugs were somewhere in the vicinity. The dog was trained to alert to the place where the drugs could be found. The dog alerted to the vehicle’s door handle. A subsequent search turned up materials that could be used to make illegal drugs, and the motorist was arrested.
The Court ruled that the free-air search of the vehicle was legal, and did not require a warrant. This expansion of police power will allow officers to conduct these types of searches any time that they believe illegal drugs may be located in a vehicle.
The second case concerns the warrantless use of a drug-detecting dog on an individual’s private property. Police received a tip that a homeowner was growing marijuana inside of a house. Officers led a drug-detecting dog around the person’s property, and the dog alerted to the front door, which was located on a porch.
The police obtained a warrant based on this alert, and found marijuana inside. In this case, the Court ruled that this search was a violation of the individual’s Fourth Amendment protections against illegal searches and seizures. The evidence was excluded, and courts required warrants for the use of drug dogs whenever the search was performed on a home or the areas immediately connected to the home.
At least one Georgia law enforcement agency has said that these rulings will not change how they use their dog to investigate drug crimes. The Albany Dougherty Drug Unit stated that it requires its officers to have a warrant before using drug-detecting dogs on an individual’s property. Since free-air searches have been permitted by the courts, it is expected that law enforcement agencies throughout Georgia will continue using those methods to detect the presence of drugs.
If you have been arrested for a drug crime, please take these charges seriously. Speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney about the options that are available to you. Each case will require a careful analysis of the facts and the arrest to learn about some of the defenses that may be presented in your situation. It is important that you know and understand what you need to do to protect your rights during this time.