K9 vehicle search dog FloridaAre The Police Allowed To Use A Dog To Search My Car For Drugs?

Canine searches are commonly used by the police in Okaloosa County. Florida has taken a strict approach to drug regulation. It is because of the war on drugs that law enforcement is beefing up their tactics to catch suspected drug handlers, drug dealers, and the occasional drug user. Trained canine officers and their handlers make the challenge of cleaning up the drug problem easy work. How do you challenge the unbiased opinion of an “expert” at drug detection?

Dog Searches After a Traffic Stop

Most canine searches are conducted roadside after a traffic stop. Law enforcement does not have the right to search your vehicle without probable cause. They know this. A loop hole for law enforcement is the “free air sniff.” It is the canine approach to stepping on your Fourth Amendment rights. Essentially a “free air sniff” is the canine officer sniffing the air around your car for an alert. It is not a search and the air is free property, right?

The alert that the canine gives can come in two forms, passive or aggressive. The aggressive alert is easy to see. The canine will charge, growl, paw, and attempt to make contact with the illegal substance. The passive alert however could be as simple as the dog taking a seat or staring at one particular spot. With so many possibilities for an alert, how do we know the dog alerted? Who is responsible for understanding what an alert is? Simple, the biased law enforcement handler attached to the dog.

How Dogs React to Finding Drugs on a Search

Canines do not view a drug situation in the same fashion as humans. A canine could care less that you are clean, have drugs or just sold drugs. Canines are driven by one goal: reward. In training, every canine is provided a reward immediately after they alert. Makes sense right? Dog does good, dog gets treat. If that were the case, canine searches would not be so controversial. The problem with the training and certification is that EVERY alert whether positive for drugs or negative for drugs receives a reward. This works great for the dog but not for you.

Just because a dog searched your car and altered on illegal narcotics does not mean your case is hopeless. You have rights, and because a dog was used in your arrest it is possible that your rights have been violated. Flaherty & Merrifield is no stranger to the “free air sniff” ploy used by the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Department. We will:

  • Challenge the time gap between contact and a canine search
  • Challenge the certifications and training of the canine
  • Review the canine’s track record and analyze the balance between successful and unsuccessful alerts.

Don’t let man’s best friend take your freedom.

Contact an Okaloosa County Drug Crimes Attorney

If you or a loved one have been charged with a drug crime in Okaloosa County, call Flaherty & Merrifield today at (850) 403-6835 for a free consultation.

Tim Flaherty
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Florida Criminal Defense Attorney