When stopped for a traffic violation that has nothing to do with drug use, you do not expect the interaction with the officer to take a turn. If you see dogs sniffing around your car, you may wonder about its legality, especially when the sniffing turns into a full search of your vehicle.
According to the case law, a dog sniffing out drugs in a vehicle may not qualify as a violation of your search and seizure rights.
When can drug dogs sniff out your vehicle?
The officers cannot automatically allow the dog into your vehicle during a traffic stop. If the officer has no reason to suspect drug use, he or she cannot search the vehicle. However, the officers can walk the dog outside of your vehicle. When walking the dog outside of your vehicle, the law does not consider this to constitute a search.
However, the officer cannot walk the dog around your car for an extended period of time. The cops can only hold you for as long as reasonable for the traffic stop. If the dogs alert to drugs, an extensive search may occur.
How can you defend yourself against a search of your vehicle?
If you face a drug conviction because of a search during a routine traffic stop, you have to fight aggressively. Drug charges can impact your ability to find a job, rent a home or obtain loans. While a search may have legal standing, it does not necessarily mean that you cannot beat the charges against you.
While dogs can alert outside of your vehicle, officers can never allow drug-sniffing dogs on your property without a warrant.