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Officers’ use of drug dogs in Virginia

Recent Supreme Court rulings have provided clarifications on when drug dogs can be used.

Four people in Lexington, Virginia, were arrested recently on drug charges, according to WDBJ7 News. The two women and two men were charged with manufacturing methamphetamine within 1000 feet of a school after a police drug dog detected the presence of the drug. The dog alerted the officer who had stopped the vehicle for a traffic violation. Other charges were also filed against some of those taken into custody.

The use of drug dogs has been a popular method for law enforcement agencies throughout Virginia and the rest of the country. These dogs are trained to detect the presence of drugs and may do so with a passive sign such as sitting. However, it is important to understand when officers can and can’t use a drug dog during investigations.

Traffic stops

In a Supreme Court ruling that just came out this month, the high court provided clarification on traffic stops and the use of a drug dog. According to the published opinion, it is a violation of a person’s constitutional rights if an officer takes more time than necessary during the stop to bring in a drug sniffing dog. However, the court did state that the dog sniff itself is not unconstitutional at a traffic stop if it takes place during the allotted time.

The case came to the court after a man was charged with drug possession with intent to distribute. The drugs were discovered after a K-9 drug dog was brought to the man’s car and circled the vehicle twice. The man argued that the search violated his rights because the traffic violation he had been stopped for had already been concluded. The officer had asked the man if he could walk his drug dog around the vehicle after giving the man a warning ticket. The court ruled that in this case, the search was unconstitutional as the traffic stop had been concluded.

House calls

In 2013, another case involving a drug dog sniff was brought to the Supreme Court. In this case, officers found 25 pounds of marijuana in a home that was suspected of holding a marijuana growing operation. The search warrant was based on the sniff of a trained drug dog who had been brought to the home’s door by a detective. The court found that this sniff was unconstitutional for the following reasons:

  • The dog was not an average pet, but a trained drug dog.
  • The dog was brought to the home for the specific purpose of detecting the presence of drugs.
  • Residents have a right to feel safe in their home without the fear of an unwarranted search.

The Huffington Post states that the ruling requires officers to obtain a search warrant first before they can bring a drug dog onto private property. If the dog was on the public sidewalk and detected the presence of drugs, that would not be considered an unconstitutional search.

Seeking legal guidance

When people are arrested in Warrenton on a drug charge, the penalties they face can be harsh, including time in prison. Drug dogs are often used in these cases and it can be difficult to determine if one’s constitutional rights have been violated. Therefore, it may of value to speak with an experienced attorney.

Keywords: drug crime, arrest, search