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Home  >  Topics  >  K-9

March 10, 2005
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Quinlan Publishing Group Case Summaries on Legal Compliance
with Quinlan Publishing Group

When does a K-9 sniff implicate a suspect's 4th ammendment rights? A Quinlan investigative stops quiz

Question:
Does a dog sniff implicate a person’s Fourth Amendment rights?

Answer:
By itself, a dog sniff does not implicate a person’s Fourth Amendment rights. A dog sniff is very non-intrusive, in that the dog simply walks around the person or property while sniffing for narcotics. In addition, a dog that is conducting a drug sniff can only detect the presence of illegal drugs, and no one has a legitimate expectation of privacy in possessing contraband.

Question:
What can an officer do if a dog positively alerts to the presence of narcotics on a person or property?

Answer:
The U.S. Supreme Court has held that a canine sniff by a well-trained narcotics-detection dog can establish probable cause if the dog positively alerts to the presence of contraband on a particular person or in a particular area. Consequently, based on a positive alert, the police would still need to get a warrant to search for the drugs, unless the situation triggers an exception to the warrant requirement.

For instance, if a dog is alerted to narcotics in a person’s vehicle, then the automobile exception to the warrant requirement would allow the police to search the vehicle without first obtaining a warrant.

Question:
Officer O stops Criminal C for speeding. After checking C’s license and registration, O begins to write C a speeding ticket when Policeman P radios to O and says he is driving to the scene with a dog to sniff C’s car.

After writing the citation, O waits for three minutes before P arrives and walks the dog around C’s car. The dog positively alerts to the presence of drugs in C’s trunk, so P searches the trunk and finds cocaine. C asks the court to suppress the drugs. Assuming P did not initially have a reasonable suspicion that C had drugs in his vehicle, will the cocaine be suppressed?

Answer:
Yes. Though the dog sniff, by itself, did not implicate C’s Fourth Amendment rights, O extended the duration of the initial traffic stop while P arrived with the drug-sniffing dog. Unless O or P had a reasonable suspicion to believe C was engaged in other criminal activities, they could not detain him longer than was necessary to carry out the purposes of the initial traffic stop.

Therefore, the extended detention, as opposed to the actual dog sniff, violated C’s Fourth Amendment rights.

Disclaimer: This quiz is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The answers to these questions are based on federal law. State laws may be more restrictive of officer conduct. Whenever you are unclear about proper procedure, consult an attorney in your jurisdiction.

Note: This quiz is an excerpt from the Investigative Stops Quiz that will be included in the March edition of the Quinlan’s Investigative Stops Bulletin. Each edition of the Investigative Stops Bulletin contains a new quiz. For subscription information, please visit: www.quinlan.com.


About the author

Quinlan Publishing Group in Boston offers critical and timely law enforcement information to its newsletter subscribers through a variety of publications. Summaries of important court cases, legal compliance information, technology updates, grants and funding information, news updates and helpful tips make up the content of these monthly newsletters. The newsletter titles are: Investigative Stops Bulletin; Search & Seizure Law Bulletin; Narcotics Law Bulletin; Police Department Disciplinary Law Bulletin; Police Grievances Law Bulletin; Arrest Law Bulletin; and Law Enforcement Management Bulletin.





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