Drug Sniffing Dogs and Your Fourth Amendment Rights
When you see the words “K-9 Unit” in your rearview mirror during a traffic stop, it’s understandable if you immediately assume your luck has officially run out. However, a recent Supreme Court decision has made it easier to defend your rights in such a situation. Don’t let the threat of a drug-sniffing dog scare you away from exercising your Fourth Amendment rights: arm yourself with the facts!
Rodriguez v. United States
Although it might not have received much press, a major Fourth Amendment victory was won just this past year in Rodriguez v. United States. In November 2012, Denny Rodriguez was pulled over by a Nebraska K-9 unit for slightly veering out of his lane. After receiving a citation and denying the officer permission to conduct a K-9 inspection, Rodriguez’s car was still sniffed eight minutes later with zero probable cause! The dog was alerted to the presence of methamphetamines, and Denny was arrested for drug possession in spite of the unreasonable search and seizure. Eventually, his case made it to the Supreme Court, and in a 6-2 decision, SCOTUS ruled that police cannot extend a traffic stop beyond the time required for citation without probable cause.
However, the Fourth Amendment is still an oft-debated topic, and it’s not entirely uncommon for cops to push legal boundaries and hope their case will stick anyway. While other recent cases like Florida v. Harris have worked in the cop’s favor, the ruling in Rodriguez v. United Statesprovides room for suspects to challenge an arrest involving the K-9 unit. Should you find yourself at the wrong end of such a stop, remember these simple tips and keep your rights intact!
Politely Refuse a Search
Absent probable cause, you do not have to allow a police officer to search your car. This also applies to drug-sniffing dogs. If a police officer asks to search your vehicle, or whether or not you consent to being sniffed, you are legally entitled to deny their request under the Fourth Amendment. Should an officer threaten to call in the dogs, don’t confess or consent: call their bluff. Based on the ruling in Rodriguez v. United States, the amount of time it takes for the dog to arrive could invalidate any charges that follow. As long as you don’t incriminate yourself further, and follow the next step, you’ll be taking important steps to protect your rights in a sticky situation.
Record the Stop
Despite what a police officer may try to tell you, recording a police encounter is still legal in Texas. Accurate documentation of your stop can go a long way in proving that everything was artificially extended without well-established probable cause. Of course, making that evidence work in your favor may require some assistance, which leads us to our next step.
Request to Speak with an Attorney
As soon as police begin to question you in the field or request a search, you have the right to remain silent and consult an attorney. As hard as the police may try to make you talk, they cannot deprive you of your Fifth Amendment rights. Unreasonable search and seizure is a complex issue that requires a well-versed attorney to effectively fight. By exercising your rights and avoiding self-incrimination, you drastically strengthen your cause.
Fight For Your Rights
Even with a strong grasp on your rights, police officers will still try to trick you or push forward with unconstitutional charges. If you find yourself on the wrong end of an unfair K-9 search, don’t consent to any further questioning without contacting the dedicated team at Thiessen Law Firm.