Dogs that can sniff out drugs, explosives and other contraband can be both intimidating and impressive. It can be exciting to watch them on TV, but when police want to use dogs to search your vehicle, it can make you nervous, even if you have done nothing wrong.
When dealing with a police search, it is essential to understand your rights and avoid accidentally giving up your rights.
Here’s what you should know about K9 searches and when you need to comply.
Dogs can sniff in public
If you are in a public place, an officer can have a drug-sniffing dog without a warrant and warning. When you are in public, you have no reasonable expectation of privacy.
If, however, you are in a private business or another privately-owned establishment, you have a reasonable expectation of privacy, and it would be inappropriate for there to be drug-sniffing dogs. The exception would be if there were probable cause for the officers to investigate a specific circumstance further.
What about traffic stops?
The answer regarding a dog sniff search during a traffic stop tends to be a bit more unclear. Often, if the officer already has a dog on the scene, they can use the dog to conduct a sniff search around the outside of the vehicle.
However, one issue the Supreme Court is clear on is detaining someone during a traffic stop to wait for a dog. If an officer pulls you over, they cannot force you to wait for a dog to arrive on the scene. Keep in mind, however, if you consent to a search, officers no longer need a warrant to search your vehicle.