When law enforcement unreasonably delays a traffic stop waiting for a K9 unit to conduct a search, the occupants’ Constitutional rights have been violated. Under some circumstances, law enforcement may detain a motorist for a reasonable amount of time waiting for a drug dog to arrive and sniff the vehicle. However, law enforcement may not simply detain people on a hunch that illegal drugs are in the vehicle.
In a well-known United States Supreme Court case that occurred in Nebraska, Rodriguez v. United States, the United States Supreme Court determined that law enforcement may not detain a driver and his vehicle longer than necessary to complete the mission of the traffic stop without sufficient cause. If law enforcement unlawfully delays a search to wait for a K9 unit, the search will be suppressed and the evidence thrown out.
Illegal K9 Vehicle Searches
Even if law enforcement does not unlawfully prolong the detention of a driver and his or her vehicle, the K9 search may still be illegal for a number of reasons. These include:
- The K9 must be reliable. Law enforcement bears the burden of proving the dog was trained. The criminal defense attorney may challenge the drug dog’s reliability and/or the qualifications and standards used by the state to certify the dog.
- The K9 must properly and accurately indicate to the odor of narcotics. During drug dog searches, when a dog detects the presence of narcotics it will display an indicating behavior. In Nebraska, most drug dogs are “passive” indicators, which means they will stop and sit next to where the odor of drugs is emitting strongest from the vehicle. In some cases, law enforcement claims an indication exists when the opposite is true. Searching a car on these false pretenses is unlawful.
- The drug dog handler cannot cue the K9. The police officer responsible for controlling the dog may intentionally or unintentionally do things during the search that affect the dog’s behavior, making it more likely to indicate to the odor of narcotics. When this happens, the criminal defense attorney will argue that the dog was cued and the indication to the odor of narcotics was invalid. If police search a vehicle based on an invalid indication, the court will likely throw out the search as unlawful.
Nebraska Drug Defense Lawyers for Cases Involving Canine Searches
Berry Law Firm’s criminal defense attorneys have extensive experience challenging the validity of drug dog searches in both federal and state courts. We obtain drug dog training records and use expert witnesses to challenge the drug dog handler and his or her interpretation of the dog’s behavior.
If your car has been unlawfully searched during an interstate drug traffic stop, contact our Nebraska drug defense lawyers today for a consultation.