Police Dogs and Drug Charges: The Rules in Texas

Police and dog

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The Fourth Amendment affords us all protections against unlawful search and seizure by law enforcement, and this right extends to our person, property, and home. All of this begs the question of where in the world do police dogs fit into this equation. Do police dogs violate our Fourth Amendment rights? Maybe. If you are facing a drug charge that a police dog initiated, do not put off consulting with an experienced Temple defense lawyer.

Dogs in Airports

We have all seen dogs sniffing around suitcases in airports, but this legal matter is settled. The Supreme Court of the United States of America has ruled that the use of drug-sniffing dogs in public places, such as in airports, does not rise to the level of a search under the Fourth Amendment. As such, if an airport dog signals the presence of drugs in a bag, it provides the officer with the probable cause he or she needs to conduct a more in-depth search of the property or person in question. When, however, officers bring drug-sniffing dogs to a private residence without a warrant for doing so, it can be a very different matter.

Dogs at Traffic Stops

What about dogs at traffic stops? This situation is a bit more complicated. To pull you over in the first place, an officer must have a reason for stopping you. While police are often at the ready with drug-sniffing dogs on certain sections of highway that are well-known for drug trafficking, this does not give them the right to pull cars over willy-nilly. Insinuating their drug dog into the situation is likely legitimate If the police do have a reason for initially pulling you over. For example, any one of the following driving infractions will do:

  • Speeding
  • Sporting a broken taillight
  • Failing to use your blinker appropriately
  • Drifting over the centerline
  • Failing to dim your bright lights appropriately
  • Following another vehicle too closely
  • Failing to pull over for an emergency vehicle with its lights flashing

The police do not need a particularly serious reason for pulling you over. One thing officers cannot do is detain you while they go and retrieve a drug dog (unless the officers have a viable reason for believing you possess drugs to begin with, such as the smell of marijuana smoke). Finally, an important point to make is that drug dogs are not always great at their jobs, so do not despair if a drug dog alerts on your vehicle or your person - drug dogs do not always get it right. Besides, you have legal rights, and you should exercise them.

Reach out to an Experienced Lawyer Today

Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard in Temple, Texas, is a practiced criminal defense lawyer who understands the serious nature of your situation and who has the legal skill, insight, and resources to help. Your case is important, so please do not hesitate to contact or call us at 254-501-4040 for more information today.


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