Police dogs are in all types of movies and TV shows. While they look impressive on both the big and small screens, it can be terrifying seeing one coming towards your vehicle with an officer asking to do a search.
Even if you do not have anything illegal in your vehicle, you may still be hesitant to allow a search for fear the dog smells something you did not know about. There are also instances where the dogs misread signals or smells and alert at the wrong time.
Here’s what you should know about K9 searches and when you can refuse.
You cannot be pulled over forever
When an officer pulls you over in your vehicle, they have certain limitations for how long they can keep you before it crosses the line to being “detained.” In general, courts tend to agree that the stop should last no more than 15 minutes unless the officer is investigating a reasonable suspicion.
Typically, if the officer has a dog with them at the scene, they can bring the dog and direct it to sniff around the outside of your vehicle. As long as the dog only sniffs the outside, courts typically agree that there has not been a search.
You do not have to agree
There are two ways that an officer can avoid officially detaining you and getting a warrant to search your vehicle: reasonable suspicion or consent. If you agree to a canine search, the police no longer need a warrant or probable cause to search your vehicle.
In most cases, if the dog does not alert to a smell from the outside of your vehicle, the search should be over. However, an officer may look for another indication of reasonable suspicion or probable cause to continue searching.
You should remember that police may make a search seem like it is not a big deal. While this is the case, if there is nothing in your vehicle, it may not be a risk you are willing to take. If an officer asks to perform a search, you can politely decline and ask to speak to a skilled attorney.