All About Canine Drug Searches

When most people think about dogs, they think about the cuddly animals that we like to laugh at and play catch with once in a while – but that isn’t the case for police dogs. The number of canine drug searches has steadily increased all across the country and in Nebraska. Dogs have been used in drug searches for over thirty years and have slowly but surely worked their way into airports, theaters, malls, and more. They search luggage, people, and vehicles for the odor of narcotics. While canine drug searches can be used anywhere, most of the cases in Nebraska focus on those used during traffic stops.

Most often, these searches aim to catch those with possession with an intent to deliver drugs, but those who have only enough drugs for personal use can be targeted as well.

The dogs employed in canine drug searches need to be properly trained to detect a particular narcotic. This training can take a long time for the dog to learn. Even more critical, however, are the circumstances in which the dog was used. The police officer cannot allow special circumstances to cause him or her to infringe upon your Fourth Amendment rights. 

Here are some basic terms you may want to know about canine drug searches:

  • Handler: The police officer trained to work with the dog.
  • Alert:  The signal that a dog gives to signify the presence of the item for which it was searching.
  • Hit: When drugs are found during a canine drug search.
  • Miss: When drugs are not found after a dog signals their presence.

Here is a little further information on a dog’s alert: The K9’s indication, or alert, is one of the most important aspects of training a search and rescue dog. Law Enforcement uses the term “alert” as the final behavior offered by the dog after a find. ARDA (American Rescue Dog Association) uses the term “indication.” Whichever you use, we are discussing the final trained behavior the dog has been taught, which communicates the location of the target odor/scent.

Canine Drug Searches: The Fourth Amendment

The Fourth Amendment protects a person’s right to be free from a search and seizure that is unreasonable. The use of canine drug searches is a very common violation of this right.

In most cases, canine drug searches are used to conduct searches and find drugs and contraband. The catch is that an officer must have probable cause to search belongings, including a car or a house. Drug dogs are often used to provide that probable cause when there is no other evidence to justify a legal search and seizure. 

If police violate your Fourth Amendment rights with an unlawful drug dog search and seizure, a Nebraska drug lawyer can use that fact alone to suppress the evidence they discovered.

Now, you may be asked to consent to the search without probable cause and most people say yes because they think they have to do so – this is not the case.

It is very important to remember that drug detection isn’t limited to the canine, but to the handler and the other team members as well.

Canine Drug Search Defenses

There are some issues with canine drug searches, leading with the fact that there is a lack of uniformity in training for police dogs. Dogs are not trained to alert to all illegal substances and those that are trained have been proven to be wildly inaccurate. Some attribute this to a dog handler leading the dogs – they won’t allow the dog to leave the site until they have made a detection. Trained dogs have also been shown to signal for drugs even when there aren’t any, simply because they know it pleases their handlers. 

There is an element of racial tension here as well: in general, police search African Americans and people of color more often than they do other people. If the handler expects to find drugs simply because of a person’s race, the handler may lead the dog into making false detections. 

Of course, you should always remain calm, collected, and quiet when you are being searched by the police or by dogs. Remember to be respectful but do not provide additional information that is not necessary. As soon as possible, retain a Nebraska drug lawyer who can help you.

Learn More About Canine Drug Search Defense Strategies

Has a canine drug search caused you to face charges? The search may have been unlawful and you should fight it. 

If you would like more information about all of your legal options regarding drug charges, including DUI possession with intent, canine drug searches, and more, be sure to contact our Nebraska drug lawyer today. Our entire team at Stockmann Law looks forward to meeting you in person and helping you make the best choices for your case. Call us today at 844-545-3022.