Can a trained canine sniff be done around the outside of your vehicle without your consent? Once a valid traffic stop of some sort is made under the U.S. 4th Amendment and NC law, law enforcement can run a canine around the outside of your vehicle without consent, or further justification. High courts have reasoned that you have no privacy interest in the sought after contraband, thus the canine sniff for the contraband is not a significant privacy infringement. So even if you don't consent to the all too common, "Anything in the car I need to know about? Mind if I take a look?", a quick canine sniff of the vehicle will generally still be valid.
Once the canine is allowed to sniff the outside of the vehicle, a trained response from the canine will justify probable cause at that point for law enforcement to search. While these hits by canines are by no means reliable, and can be very controversial for obvious reasons, they are generally held valid.
So what can a drug defense attorney do to help me if I've been charged with contraband pursuant to a canine sniff search? If the stop was valid in the first place, which must be determined, then the validity of the canine search is usually a matter of reasonableness of the detention. In other words, if police have reasonable suspicion to believe criminal activity is afoot, then a reasonable detention to procure a canine for investigation may be warranted. Absent reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, the traffic stop cannot continue beyond what is necessary to issue the traffic citation related to the initial stop.
Furthermore, in some cases courts have found that particular odd behaviors given by the dog are not sufficient to justify a "hit" for probable cause to search. However, if the canine is properly trained and certified, it could prove very difficult to challenge a handler's obvious ability to trigger an illegitimate response. Dogs are treated in response to their hits, which I would argue further complicates the legitimacy of the trained response. Regardless, canine sniffs are generally given significant weight as valid probable cause.
If you've been charged with trafficking or possession in Asheville or surrounding Western NC areas, contact an effective Asheville Drug Lawyer today.
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