Auto Accident Law 101

Auto Accident Law 101

Drug Sniffing Dogs At Routine Traffic Stops And The Fourth Amendment

Everett Cook

The fourth amendment clearly spells out the rights of individuals involved in suspected criminal activity: no police officer or government official is allowed to engage in "unreasonable search and seizure." In other words, if the police don't have a warrant or probable cause to search you or your property, they can't. The fourth amendment to the Constitution can cause some confusion among individuals who have been detained at a routine traffic stop and had drug sniffing dogs inspect their car. Are police allowed to use the dogs to search for illegal drugs within your car, or is that something that's illegal within the search and seizure amendment? Continue reading to learn more about the unique rules and regulations involving traffic stops, drug sniffing dogs, and the Fourth Amendment:

Trained Dogs Sniffing for Trouble

Officially trained police sniffing dogs help officers to find things that they may not have seen with their own eyes. While police employ the use of dogs for many different reasons, canine units trained to sniff out and discover illegal substances (from cocaine to marijuana) are common. Although the drug may not be in plain sight, all it takes is the slightest of smells for a K-9 unit to go wild with barking, sending a clear message to the officer: there is something worth checking out inside your car.

If the officer who pulled you over already happens to have a dog in their car at the time they stop you, there is nothing illegal about having the dog sniff around the outside of your car. Technically, walking the dog around your car and allowing it to sniff isn't breaking the law-- at no time have the officer or the K-9 unit actually climbed into your car or breached your privacy.

Illegal Search and Seizure

There are, however, two specific situations that are not legal-- both of them are a breach of the Fourth Amendment and can be fought in court:

  • If the officer who has pulled you over does not already have a drug sniffing dog in their car, they are not allowed to detain you until a unit arrives. If the traffic stop is extended to longer than it would have normally been, the officer is breaching the Fourth Amendment.
  • If the dog reacts to something within your car (showing suspicion of drugs), the officer has a legal right and probable cause to search your property. If however the officer decides to search your car with no evidence whatsoever that you have done anything illegal, your rights have been violated and you have the right to contact an attorney.


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About Me
Auto Accident Law 101

After being involved in a serious auto accident with a drunk driver, I struggled heavily with getting the driver's insurance company to open a claim. When the insurance company started pushing back, I knew I needed to do something. I spent a lot of time digging through the laws surrounding auto accident claims so that I knew what my legal rights were. I even talked with an auto accident attorney. I created this site to teach others about what I learned, including my court experience. I hope it helps you to determine how you should proceed with your auto accident case.