Are K-9 Sniffs During Traffic Stops Constitutional? U.S. Supreme Court Rules Against It in 6-3 Decision
The U.S. Supreme Court found that the use of K-9 units, or drug-sniffing dogs, during a traffic stop was considered an illegal practice in a 6 to 3 decision. While unreasonable search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment had long been considered unlawful, but searches involving K-9’s had not yet been addressed.
Legislation Shifts Inspired by 2012 Unlawful Stop Case
The issue was later brought to light, spurred on by the 2012 arrest of a driver who was stopped after an officer witnessed him swerving to avoid a pothole. The entire stop took around 21 minutes, and during that time, the driver was asked to step out of the vehicle so that a K-9 hunt could be performed.
When the driver refused, the officer forced him to leave the vehicle. The dog-sniff was then carried out, which uncovered a bag of methamphetamine in the vehicle. While the driver initially pled guilty to a drug possession charge, it was later appealed due to reasoning that the search was conducted illegally.
Searches involving K-9’s during traffic stops is now illegal. However, you may be surprised to find out that officers may not realize this. Some use tactics that fall outside the boundaries of their duties. This is specifically why you should be aware of your rights and how to protect yourself. For example, prolonging a search unreasonably to allow for a K-9 search is illegal. You also have the right to refuse searches and to refrain from speaking.
How We Can Help
Hager & Schwartz, P.A. are Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorneys with more than 35 years of experience. Having handled cases involving those who have been accused of serious crimes, we are also well-attuned to the changes and developments in the law. One of the ways we seek to defend our clients is to inform them of these laws and help them understand what they are entitled to and what their rights are.