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Indianapolis Criminal Attorney
John "Jack" Razumich
Criminal Attorney
Andrew Redd
Criminal Attorney


Understanding the Criminal Justice System

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Can the Police Use Drug Sniffing Dogs to Search My Car?

Police dogs are trained to detect a wide variety of illegal drugs, including cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine. If you’re stopped by police, you have a right to know when police are actually allowed to use drug-sniffing dogs.

Police Need a Valid Reason to Stop You

When you’re driving, the police must have a valid reason to pull you over. Whether it’s speeding or driving with a broken taillight, the police need a legitimate reason to make the stop. They can’t just pull you over because they feel like, because they don’t like the look of your vehicle, or because you “look dangerous.”

If they do pull you over for a legitimate reason, they are allowed to use a drug-sniffing dog, but they can’t hold you at the scene while they wait around for the dog to show up. The U.S. Supreme Court held in Illinois v. Caballes that the police don’t need a reasonable suspicion of drug use or the presence of drugs to bring in a drug-sniffing dog. They can use the dog to sniff for drugs around your vehicle as part of a routine traffic stop. Per the Supreme Court, this is not a violation of the Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures because drug dogs are trained to find illegal substances – and no one has a legitimate expectation of privacy for the possession or use of illegal drugs.

The Police Can’t Detain or Delay You

Here is the most important thing to remember: The police can’t keep you waiting while they call for a drug-sniffing dog. The Court in Caballes also ruled that the police can call for a drug-sniffing dog, but they can’t delay the traffic stop just because they’re waiting for the dog to arrive on the scene. Instead, they only have the amount of time it takes to write the ticket and wrap up the stop. If the dog arrives within that timeframe and detects drugs, then the police have reasonable cause to search the vehicle. If the dog fails to detect drugs, the police must send the motorist on his way.

Furthermore, you have the right to refuse consent to the drug sniff. Be calm, courteous, and respectful when you interact with the police, but don’t forget that you have the right to refuse a search. If the court determines that police were not justified in detaining you while they waited for the dog, it may order any evidence discovered by the dog inadmissible.

Experienced Indianapolis Criminal Defense

Search and seizure law is complex and constantly evolving. If you believe you were arrested as the result of an unlawful search, don’t wait to speak to an attorney about your defense. Call me at 317-989-1129 for a free consultation.

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