Utah motorists may wonder what their rights are regarding searches from a drug dog of their car and what to do when no drugs are located after an alert on a vehicle.
Sniffing isn’t considered searching
Just as an officer is allowed to look in a window to see if drugs are in plain view, a drug dog is allowed to sniff vehicles without a warrant as it doesn’t violate any rights of the motorist. The inspection by the drug dog cannot cause the motorist to be detained while the dog sniffs around however. It has to be done during the same time that an officer is performing a traffic stop for a legitimate reason.
If a sniffer dog alerts after sniffing a vehicle, he is giving his handler some kind of a sign, however subtle, that there are drugs in the vehicle. Once the dog has alerted, the officer then has probable cause to search the vehicle. Any drugs confiscated from that point are done so with probable cause and can be used as evidence in court.
Drug dog false alarm
One issue that occasionally comes up when a drug dog alerts during a traffic stop is that no drugs turn up inside the vehicle. When this happens, motorists may wonder whether or not the dog actually alerted on the vehicle. They may just be grateful that the alert turned out to be a false alarm and be on their way. However, their constitutional rights may have just been violated by the officer and that should not be ignored. For more information on your Fourth Amendment rights during a traffic stop, especially when it involves a drugdog contact a criminal defense attorney immediately.