The use of drug-sniffing dogs is a common occurrence in drug-related DUI cases in Georgia. Certain legal requirements must happen for the use of the drug-sniffing dog to be constitutional. An experienced Dekalb DUI attorney knows these requirements and will protect your rights.
The Initial Stop
A police officer must pull you over for a legitimate reason before a drug-sniffing dog even comes into the picture. This means that police need to have a reasonable suspicion that the driver or a passenger in the vehicle has violated the law in some way. Even minor offenses such as speeding or crossing over marked lanes may be enough to justify the initial stop.
Normally, minor infractions of the law do not justify a search of the car. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled, however, that the use of a drug-sniffing dog is not the kind of search that violates the Fourth Amendment. In Illinois v. Caballes, a driver was pulled over for speeding. The officer called the stop through dispatch. Another officer heard the call and arrived with a drug-sniffing dog. While the original officer was writing the speeding ticket to the driver, the second officer walked the dog around the car. The dog "alerted," or indicated it detected drugs, and as a result, the two officers searched the car. The officers found marijuana in the trunk. (Illinois v. Caballes, 543 U.S. 405 (2005)).
The driver argued that the search was illegal, but the Supreme Court ruled that drivers do not have "a reasonable expectation of privacy" in the smell of their vehicles. The use of the drug-sniffing dog was now considered a constitutionally permissible method of searching for drugs, even when the original reason for pulling a driver over was for a simple infraction.
How Long Did Your Stop Take?
As a result of the Supreme Court's ruling in Illinois v. Caballes, police officers began to initiate stops and then call for a drug-sniffing dog. This resulted in extended stops while the officer waited on the drug-sniffing dog to arrive.
For example, you are pulled over for speeding on I-285. The officer speaks with you, gets your information, and returns to her car. She calls dispatch for a drug-sniffing dog. As she waits for the dog, she writes you a ticket but waits another twenty minutes for the dog to arrive. When the dog arrives, it "alerts" your car and the officers search it, finding marijuana. The officers then ask you if you are under the influence and perform an examination of you. Eventually, you are arrested for driving under the influence of marijuana.
The U.S. Supreme Court considered this situation in the case of Rodriguez v. U.S. The Court ruled that a police officer who does not have reasonable suspicion other than the traffic infraction may not prolong a stop just to have a drug-sniffing dog search the car. If the stop is extended beyond the reasonable time it normally takes to conduct the traffic stop of that type, then that extension of time is unconstitutional. (Rodriguez v. U.S., 135 S.Ct. 1609 (2015)).
Protect Your Rights
If an officer finds drugs in your vehicle it could be the reason they suspected DUI. If your stop was extended because the officer waited on a drug-sniffing dog, your case could be dismissed. Knowing your rights and how they apply to your unique situation is crucial to your defense. Never assume the officer properly conducted a search.