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K-9 alerts: how reliable are they?

On Behalf of | Sep 28, 2023 | Criminal defense, Drug Crimes | 0 comments

K-9 units for police are a heavily utilized tool to allow for vehicle searches. In a perfect scenario, the dog will smell possible narcotics, and the police will search the car and make an arrest. However, that scenario is not always the case.

The fact is k-9 units alert falsely on a regular basis, and there are numerous allegations of police dog handlers training dogs to alert on command. However, it’s also possible – though hard to quantify – that some dogs are alert because their “partner” really wants them to. How does this work?

“Probable cause on four legs”

Humans and dogs bond. It’s been the case for thousands of years, and because of those bonds, dogs frequently will do things to make their owners happy. In some cases, it leads to frequent and near-constant alerts.

However, the “alerts” – no matter whether they are accurate or not, are always going to be enough to give police probable cause for a search. The question now is: what can you do about it?

Cooperation and silence

It may be frustrating to hear, but when facing any potential search of your property by police, the safest options will always be to cooperate and say as little as possible. The police’s authority and power – especially when they believe they have probable cause – are immense. Trying to deny that power at the moment puts people in physical jeopardy.

In the case of K-9 searches, a new common policy requirement may work in your favor. Bodycams can watch dog searches as well as their handlers. They can catch instances of non-verbal commands to alert.

What happens if a false alert leads to a successful search?

If your lawyer can prove that a false alert led to evidence against you, that removes the police officer’s probable cause. This makes any evidence found “fruit of the poisonous tree” inadmissible. That doesn’t necessarily mean any charges against you are immediately dropped, but it can be a game-changing moment.