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Open Air Dog Searches

Recently, the constitutionality of drug dog sniffs has been questioned and addressed in various cases. In light of the Fourth Amendment and a person's right to privacy, this can be a very sensitive subject for both citizens and law enforcement. Two of the most recent Supreme Court decisions impact drug dog sniffs that occur around vehicles and those that occur near someone's home.

For drug sniffs that take place near a vehicle, a police officer is not required to obtain a search warrant before using the dog. This decision stems from a case involving a warrantless drug sniff that was performed around a driver's car. After pulling a driver over for an expired license plate, the officer noticed that the driver was visibly nervous. The driver did not consent to a search, so the officer walked his drug dog around the vehicle. The sniff search alerted the officer to methamphetamine.

This search was considered legal because it did not invade any of the driver's reasonable expectations of privacy. Had the officer detained the driver for an unnecessary amount of time, however, the drug sniff may have then been unlawful.

Are warrants required for drug sniffs near a home?

In the second Supreme Court case, an officer arrived at a man's home after receiving an unverified tip that the man was growing marijuana. The surveillance was fruitless, so the officer walked his K-9 drug dog up to the front porch. The dog alerted the officer to the presence of drugs almost immediately. Because of the dog's findings, the officer obtained a search warrant and found marijuana inside the man's home.

The Supreme Court ruled that the use of the drug dog in this scenario was illegal because it was a direct violation of the man's Fourth Amendment rights. Drug sniffs cannot be performed without a warrant when they occur at or near a person's home. As evidenced above, this even applies to dog sniffs that take place outside a suspect's home.

If you feel that your rights were recently violated by an unlawful drug dog sniff, contact Seltzer Mayberg, LLC immediately. Our Miami criminal defense lawyer is here to protect the rights you are entitled to, so don't delay!

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