Recently, two men from Illinois were pulled over while driving in South Dakota. Although the two were stopped by a police officer due to an unrelated traffic violation, a drug-sniffing dog was brought to the side of the vehicle. A subsequent search of the car reportedly uncovered 62 pounds of marijuana.

The two men are now facing felony drug possession charges, for possession of cocaine, over 10 pounds of marijuana and drug paraphernalia. While the U.S. Supreme Court has previously held that a dog sniffing outside of a vehicle after a valid traffic stop does not constitute a search under the Fourth Amendment, other questions relating to the use of drug-sniffing dogs have recently been brought before the high court.

The court heard oral arguments in two cases involving drug-sniffing dogs – one of which related to a search outside of a car and the other outside of a house. The decisions made by the justices in these two cases could affect the rights of those charged with drug crimes.

Drug-sniffing dog cases before the US Supreme Court

Florida v. Harris arose from a traffic stop in which the law enforcement officer on duty suspected the driver was under the influence of drugs. He brought his drug-sniffing dog to the side of the vehicle and the dog alerted to the presence of drugs. Upon a search of the vehicle, the officer uncovered substances used to produce methamphetamine.

Coincidentally, the same officer pulled over the same individual a few weeks later. Again, the drug-sniffing dog alerted to the presence of drugs. On this occasion, however, the officer did not find any evidence of drugs inside the vehicle. Consequently, the reliability of the drug-detection dog was questioned.

Florida v. Jardines questions whether the use of a drug-sniffing dog on the front porch of a private residence constitutes a search under the Fourth Amendment. In this case, law enforcement officials received a tip that marijuana was being grown inside a home. The officers went to the residence and allowed a drug-detection dog to sniff outside the front door. The dog alerted to the presence of drugs, leading the officers to obtain a search warrant. Upon entering the house, marijuana plants were found, resulting in drug charges against the homeowner.

During the oral arguments before the Supreme Court, the justices appeared hesitant to place limits on the use of drug-detection dogs outside of vehicles. The justices raised concerns, however, about violating the privacy of the home.

If you have been charged with a drug crime due to a drug-sniffing dog, consulting with a knowledgeable, Peoria criminal defense attorney will ensure your rights are protected.