While technological advances have provided law enforcement with new tools to conduct surveillance and searches, these advances can constitute serious violations of an individual’s privacy interests. One area where law enforcement has become more sophisticated without developing new technology involves the use of dogs to detect illegal narcotics. Drug sniffing dogs are so effective that they can detect the presence of illegal drugs from as far as a mile away. Because of the extensive training and ability of dogs to detect contraband at such great distances, the courts have constructed laws that limit the use of K-9 drug detection units.
The Fourth Amendment provides that individual have a right to protection from unreasonable search and seizures. While warrantless searches are presumed to be unreasonable, there are many exceptions to the warrant requirement that allow the police to skirt the edges of the Fourth Amendment. Further, there are locations, such as the inside of one’s home where individuals are presumed to have the greatest protection of their privacy interests because they have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Searches of a private home without a warrant are more likely to run afoul of the prohibition against unreasonable search and seizures than a traffic stop in a vehicle. We have provided an overview of how these principles apply in the context of dogs trained to detect marijuana, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, ecstasy and other illegal drugs.
Because of the strong interest people have in privacy within their home and the areas immediately outside of one’s home, drug sniffing dogs may not be used to detect drugs inside a person’s residence without a search warrant. A recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court held that the use of drug detecting dogs outside one’s home to alert officers of marijuana inside the home constituted a search under the Fourth Amendment. This means that the police generally need a warrant to use a drug sniffing dog to detect narcotics inside a home with a dog in the area outside the home.
The notion that a person’s home is his or her castle is emphasized by the much more extensive use of drug sniffing dogs permitted when people are stopped while driving a vehicle. Law enforcement may use drug K-9 units outside a stopped vehicle to detect narcotics inside the car even if the police have no basis for believing there are drugs in the vehicle. The U.S. Supreme Court has even condoned the use of drug sniffing dogs after a driver is pulled over for a traffic violation to provide probable cause for search of a vehicle.
Kansas City criminal defense attorney Stacey Schlimmer provides aggressive defense to protect her clients from becoming collateral damage in the “War on Drugs.” She aggressively asserts her clients right to be protected for unreasonable search and seizures. Our Kansas criminal defense law firm offers a confidential free consultation so call us today at 913-219-5424 or contact us online.