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DRUG-DETECTING DOGS AT CENTER OF TWO U.S. SUPREME COURT CASES

When a person is accused of a crime, it can often be a time of great confusion. Sometimes the individual has never had any interaction with law enforcement before the arrest, and may feel that they can talk their way out of trouble. This almost never happens, as police have conducted very extensive investigations before making an arrest.

Certain crimes, especially drug crimes, often receive more attention from investigators. Officers may receive tips from confidential informants or may discover evidence of wrongdoing from others who are arrested. Police can use this information to try to learn how the drugs may have found their way into their communities.

Police conducting these investigations need to follow proper procedures to ensure that an individual’s constitutional rights are being protected. Frequently, the behavior of law enforcement can lead to questions about the potential violation of these rights. The U.S. Supreme Court is currently hearing two cases concerning the use of drug-detecting dogs, and whether or not the subsequent arrests were proper.

In the first case, an individual was pulled over by police. When the officer approached, he noticed the man behaving erratically. When asked for consent to search the vehicle, the man declined. The officer then brought a drug-detecting dog to sniff the “free air” outside of the vehicle. The dog indicated the presence of a substance on the driver’s door handle. A further search revealed several materials used in the making of meth under the driver’s seat.

In the second case, police received a tip from a crime-stoppers line that a person was growing marijuana inside of a residence. The investigation began much later, when police went to the home. An officer watched the location for 15 minutes. Law enforcement than brought a drug-detecting dog on the porch of the home, and the dog indicated the presence of drugs. A further search turned up evidence of marijuana growing.

The question that the Court is considering is whether these police activities violated the defendant’s rights under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. For years, law enforcement agencies have relied on drug dogs to establish probable cause to search. (For a more detailed explanation of the problems with drug dog searches please read our ebook: Nebraska Interstate Drug Stop Defense Book) If the Court permits these actions, it could greatly enhance the powers that police have when they are conducting investigations.

If you have been accused of a drug crime, speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney. You need to protect your rights during this process, as there are serious consequences for a conviction which can last several years after a case has ended.