Are Drug-Sniffing Dogs Legal at a Traffic Stop?

Just seeing a drug-sniffing dog can be nerve-wracking, and having one sniff your body, compound, car, or belongings can feel like an infringement on your privacy. These dogs are a common sight in airports and functions such as festivals where large crowds of people gather to have fun.

Apart from airports and music festivals, you might have seen these dogs at a traffic stop and wondered if it was legal for the police to have them there. 

The Case of Illinois V. Caballes

In the case of Illinois V. Caballes, the judge ruled that dogs sniffing cars during traffic stops does not violate the Fourth Amendment. In a routine traffic stop, a drug-sniffing dog notified police that Roy Caballes had marijuana in his trunk. Roy felt that he was unlawfully searched and took the matter to court.

The police pulled Roy over for speeding, but the dog found the drugs after walking around the car. Did the police have a right to walk around Roy’s car with the dog during the traffic stop?

The court said yes. It ruled in favor of Illinois and said the police broke no law when the dog sniffed Roy’s car.

When is Dog-Sniffing Legal at a Traffic Stop?

You have a reasonable expectation of privacy when you are in a private place like your home, but at a routine traffic stop, you do not expect privacy since you are in a public place. Even if the police pull you over for a reason unrelated to drugs, drug-sniffing dogs can legally sniff away.

For example, assume the police pulled you over because you have a broken light. The broken light gives the officers no clue as to whether or not you have drugs, right? Now, if an officer approaches your vehicle with a

 dog to ask for your license and registration, the dog is legally allowed to sniff your car.

When Is Dog-Sniffing Illegal at a Traffic Stop?

As much as these dogs can sniff your car at a traffic stop, there are rules the police need to follow. The dog can only sniff your car if it was at the traffic stop when you stopped. Police should never make you wait for a drug-sniffing dog to arrive at the scene if it was not already there.

Detaining a person or prolonging traffic in the name of waiting for a drug dog is illegal. After following the standard procedure, the police should let you go if the dog is not around.

What Can You Do if Your Rights Were Violated By the Police?

If you think an officer has violated your rights at a traffic stop, contact the Law Office of David Freidberg. Call today at (312) 560-7100 to schedule an appointment, and we can begin preparing your defense immediately. 

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