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Do drug dogs on private property need a warrant?

Dogs have been used in military and law enforcement to detect bombs and drugs for many years. Dogs have excellent sniffing capabilities, allowing them to identify explosives, marijuana and even cadavers. Of course, as police departments used this "technology" to discover illegal activity, the laws had to keep up. The real question about using drug dogs to detect illicit substances is not whether using the dog is legal or not, it is in how the search is conducted.

Traffic searches may not need a warrant, but there are limitations

Police have the right to use drug dogs, but the courts have limited the extent of the use in certain circumstances. If you are stopped for a traffic violation, the police officer can conduct a K9 search of your vehicle, but only during the normal time it takes to issue the citation. It is considered improper to call in a K9 unit for backup and to make you wait for the unit to arrive. As with most laws, there are always multiple "what-ifs" that accompany the laws. Your best bet is talk to your attorney following an arrest to determine if the officer acted properly.

Drug dogs need a warrant on private property

In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a drug dog on private property must have a warrant to conduct a search. The case, Florida v. Jardines, limits how investigations are handled. Justice Antonin Scalia likened the use of drug dogs outside someone's home much like a police officer peering in the windows of a home. Without a warrant, any evidence detected is inadmissible. The Court was split, with a 5-4 decision in the case, but the ruling stands. According to Justice Elena Kagan, "people have a heightened expectation of privacy in their homes." However, there may be other circumstances that the police use to justify the use of a drug dog without a warrant. You should discuss this with an attorney.

Was the search on your property legal?

Many times, whether a search was legal or not comes down to the judge who is interpreting the law, which is why so many cases are appealed to the higher courts. If the police use a drug dog to search your property, talk to your attorney about whether your rights were protected during the search. The law is complex. Law enforcement often tries to "push the envelope" as far as they can to get the information they need for a conviction. You can challenge the accusations and suppress evidence of an illegal search, but you need to have a strong attorney on your side to fight for your future.

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