FREE e-Newsletter
Important News - Hot Topics
Get them Now!

Departments : Point of Law

K-9 Sniffs and the Fourth Amendment

Use of drug dogs to detect illegal substances is not always lawful.

June 01, 2005  |  by Devallis Rutledge - Also by this author

As in Place, the court found that the detention that provided the opportunity for a K-9 sniff was unreasonable. But also as in Place, the court made clear that if the detention had been justified, the mere use of the dog would not have violated the Fourth Amendment.

The court explained, “The fact that officers walk a narcotics-detection dog around the exterior of each car at the Indianapolis checkpoints does not transform the seizure into a search. Just as in Place, an exterior sniff of an automobile does not require entry into the car and is not designed to disclose any information other than the presence or absence of narcotics. A sniff by a dog that simply walks around a car is much less intrusive than a typical search.”

Once again, the court held that it was the seizure that violated the Fourth Amendment—not the use of the K-9. If the narcotics checkpoint had been a permissible way to stop cars, the walk-around would not have been any problem.

Illinois v. Caballes

In 2005, the Supreme Court finally got a chance to clarify that exterior dog sniffs, during a lawful detention, do not violate the Fourth Amendment.

Caballes was stopped for speeding. The officer intended to write him a warning ticket, which might have taken 10 minutes. A nearby K-9 officer, hearing about the stop on the radio, rolled by and walked his dog around the car while Caballes was being issued a traffic warning—a lawful detention. The dog hit, a search produced drugs, and Caballes moved to suppress the evidence.

The Illinois Supreme Court thought the K-9 sniff was an “unjustifiable enlargement” of the traffic stop, and held that since there was no reasonable suspicion to justify use of the dog, the drugs should be suppressed. The U.S. Supreme Court reversed the decision.

Since the duration of the 10-minute stop was not extended to accommodate the K-9 sniff, the Supreme Court found this case to be distinguishable from Place and Edmond. Once it was determined that there had been no unreasonable seizure and that the K-9 sniff did not extend the length of the seizure, the court simply applied the K-9 portions of its earlier decisions, and upheld the search of Caballes’s car.

“The use of a well-trained narcotics-detection dog during a lawful traffic stop generally does not implicate legitimate privacy interests,” the court said. “In this case, the dog sniff was performed on the exterior of respondent’s car while he was lawfully seized for a traffic violation. A dog sniff conducted during a concededly lawful traffic stop that reveals no information other than the location of a substance that no individual has any right to possess does not violate the Fourth Amendment.”

The court held that the K-9 alert was sufficiently reliable to establish probable cause for a full-blown search of the trunk of the car and, therefore, the drugs were lawfully seized and should not have been suppressed.

General K-9 Sniff Principles

Several points can be seen from these cases:

• If the initial detention of property or persons is unlawful, the results of the K-9 sniff may be inadmissible.

• If an initially lawful detention is unlawfully prolonged just to allow a K-9 sniff, the results may be inadmissible.

• Motorists cannot be subjected to checkpoint stops solely for the purpose of running a K-9 check for drugs.

• As long as there is no detention, or as long as any detention is lawfully made and not unduly prolonged, the use of a K-9 to sniff for contraband (which could include both narcotics and explosive materials) is not a Fourth Amendment “search” and, therefore, requires no suspicion.

Devallis Rutledge, a former police officer and veteran prosecutor, is Special Counsel to the Los Angeles County District Attorney.

«   Page 2 of 2   »

Tags: Point of Law, K-9 Units, Search and Seizure


Be the first to comment on this story





POLICE Magazine does not tolerate comments that include profanity, personal attacks or antisocial behavior (such as "spamming" or "trolling"). This and other inappropriate content or material will be removed. We reserve the right to block any user who violates this, including removing all content posted by that user.

Other Recent Stories

Revisiting the "21-Foot Rule"
The so-called "21-Foot Rule" was born and soon spread throughout the law enforcement...
Leadership in Reverse
Every profession espouses the virtues of leadership. But what about followers, which are...

Get Your FREE Trial Issue and Win a Gift! Subscribe Today!
Yes! Please rush me my FREE TRIAL ISSUE of POLICE magazine and FREE Officer Survival Guide with tips and tactics to help me safely get out of 10 different situations.

Just fill in the form to the right and click the button to receive your FREE Trial Issue.

If POLICE does not satisfy you, just write "cancel" on the invoice and send it back. You'll pay nothing, and the FREE issue is yours to keep. If you enjoy POLICE, pay only $25 for a full one-year subscription (12 issues in all). Enjoy a savings of nearly 60% off the cover price!

Offer valid in US only. Outside U.S., click here.
It's easy! Just fill in the form below and click the red button to receive your FREE Trial Issue.
First Name:
Last Name:
Rank:
Agency:
Address:
City:
State:
  
Zip Code:
 
Country:
We respect your privacy. Please let us know if the address provided is your home, as your RANK / AGENCY will not be included on the mailing label.
E-mail Address:

Police Magazine