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Are Dog Sniffs to Find the Presence of Illegal Substances Legal?

As a Fort Lauderdale Criminal Lawyer, I think this is an interesting question and without sounding like too much of a lawyer, the answer is yes and no. I say this because it depends on several factors first is it a car? a house? a commercial property? Your answer to the first question may determine if the sniff is good. Let's take a car first. If you are being stopped for a ticket and during the writing of that ticket a dog shows on the scene to sniff, it could be ruled that it is a good search. If on the other hand the Officer is taking a long period of time to write the ticket (case law supports 30 minutes) and a dog shows up during that time, it may be the basis for a good motion to suppress. Alternatively, if the ticket is issued and the officer then holds you at the scene until the dog arrives that too may be a basis for a Motion to Suppress.

Now in regards to a home that you live in, the law is different as you are essentially the "king of your castle." Florida Criminal Case law differs from district to district. In a bold and impressive opinion, the 4th DCA for the 17th Judicial Circuit, upheld the decision of Judge Ilona Holmes when she ruled that a dog sniff of a persons home is akin to other forms of sense enhancing technology such as thermo imagers or x-rays into a persons home. Ultimately, the court GRANTED the Defendants Motion to Suppress. This is not the same in other jurisdictions where they have held that a dog sniff of the exterior door of a person home does not constitute an illegal search.

Commercial property is interesting, as there is an exception to that rule of dog sniffs even in the 4th DCA. In regards to searching commercial property, there is a lower expectation of privacy. Even in the 4th DCA, the courts find that hotel room hallways are open to the public and therefore can be explored by K-9 handlers.

Lastly, to be considered is the reliability of the K-9 in question. The mere fact that the dog has training and has been "certified" is not sufficient. The questions that must be answered by the State Attorney's Office according to prevalent case law "the exact training the detector dog has received; the standards or criteria employed in selecting dogs for marijuana detection training; the standards the dog was required to meet to successfully complete his training program; the "track" record of the dog up until the search (emphasis must be placed on the amount of false alerts or mistakes the dog has furnished)" Once those questions are answered, then the court can make a determination of the sufficiency and reliability of the K-9 search. It is very important to hire an Fort Lauderdale Criminal Lawyer, that is experienced with Dog sniff searches and Motions to Suppress. Call our Office today to find out more details of the experience of Criminal Attorney Bradford Cohen.

What is a Motion to Suppress?