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When is a K-9 search legal during a traffic stop?

On Behalf of | Jul 19, 2021 | Criminal Defense |

In Vancouver, Washington, people who are subject to a traffic stop, have their vehicle searched and are subsequently confronted by drug charges might wonder about their rights and if the search is legal. This is especially concerning if there was a K-9 used to aid in the search. Since drug charges can be so serious with hefty consequences legally, personally and professionally, it is important to think about the evidence and if it was accumulated based on the law.

Legal ruling addressed K-9 vehicle searches for drugs

For those who are worried about a K-9 search that found drugs leading to an arrest, a case addressed this very issue. A man was arrested for marijuana trafficking after he was stopped for speeding and a drug dog was brought in to sniff the vehicle. The Supreme Court stated that law enforcement does not require reasonable suspicion before using a drug-sniffing K-9 when making a traffic stop. However, the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution does not apply as dogs are only sniffing out illegal items. With that, a dog can be used when a traffic stop is made.

Despite that, law enforcement cannot keep a person at the scene without justification until the K-9 arrives. If, for example, the traffic stop is for speeding, then the officer can take the necessary time to check the license and write the citation, but not stall until the K-9 arrives. If the officer making the stop has a K-9, then the dog can sniff for illegal substances. This is a critical aspect of a criminal defense for drug crimes.

Crafting strategies for a defense may require experienced advice

Even if the drug charges stem from a valid K-9 search, it does not eliminate other avenues of defense. The K-9 might not have a reliable record for drug searches, the traffic stop could have been questionable or there may be other reasons why the case can be fought at trial. The situation must be scrutinized and having professional help is imperative to forge a viable defense and avoid the worst penalties.