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Arizona Car Searches Using Drug-Sniffing Dogs

For decades, law enforcement officers have used dogs to detect narcotics due to their superior sense of smell. And over the years, courts have generally upheld police officer’s ability to use dogs to sniff the perimeter of a motorist’s vehicle on the basis that it does not constitute a legal “search” under the 4th Amendment. If you have questions that relate to topics such as these, reach out to an Arizona drug crimes attorney without delay.

In a 2007 case, an Arizona appellate court issued an opinion containing an in-depth discussion regarding the use of drug-detection dogs by Arizona law enforcement. In that case, a police officer pulled the defendant over for speeding. The officer noticed that the defendant’s car had two cell phones mounted to the dash, a map on the passenger seat, an open bottle of liquor, and some snacks. The officer issued the defendant a warning and, after the warning was issued, the police officer asked if he could search the defendant’s car. The defendant replied that he had nothing to hide, but did not want to wait. The officer then let the defendant go.

The same officer pulled the defendant over a few minutes later, again for speeding. The officer issued another warning, and again asked if he could search the defendant’s car. The defendant still refused, indicating that he had nothing to hide. The police officer went back to his car to call for a canine unit, and was informed it would be about 90 minutes until a canine unit arrived. The officer told the defendant, who explained that it was not a problem because he was retired and not in a hurry.

The dog alerted to the defendant’s car, and the police officer recovered over 300 pounds of marijuana. The defendant filed a motion to suppress based on the illegal search. Specifically, the defendant claimed that the duration of the traffic stop was impermissibly extended and unsupported by reasonable suspicion.

The court, however, disagreed, denying the defendant’s motion. The court explained that after the officer issued the second warning, the defendant was free to leave. However, the officer was also able to ask the defendant about matters unrelated to the traffic stop, but could not require the defendant to stay and answer.

Here, the court explained that the defendant voluntarily engaged with the officer after the warning was issued. During this interaction, the defendant refused to consent to the search his vehicle. However, the court held that the officer had reasonable suspicion to detain the defendant for further investigation until the canine unit arrived. In so holding, the court noted that the canine unit was the closest available unit and that the defendant did not object to the 90-minute wait at the time he was told.

Have You Been Arrested After a Canine Search?

If you have recently been arrested after and charged for an Arizona drug crime after police used a canine unit to search your vehicle, contact Attorney James E. Novak. Attorney Novak is a dedicated Arizona criminal defense attorney with extensive experience handling all types of cases involving illegal searches and seizures. To learn more about how Attorney Novak can help you defend against the serious charge you are facing, call 480-413-1499 to schedule a free consultation today.

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Other Articles of Interest from The Law Office of James Novak’s Award Winning Blog:

Court Determines Digital Photographs Were Reviewable by a Jury Even When Not Admitted into Evidence, Arizona DUI and Criminal Defense Attorney Blog, October 24, 2018

Court Finds Defendant Was Not Seized Although Police Boxed in Defendant’s Car, Preventing Him from Leaving, Arizona DUI and Criminal Defense Attorney Blog, November 6, 2018

Court Holds the Smell of Marijuana Still Gives Rise to the Probable Cause to Search, Despite Arizona’s Medical Marijuana Statute, Arizona DUI and Criminal Defense Attorney Blog, November 20, 2018