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Drug Detection Dogs and Probable Cause for Search and Arrest

Posted on in Drug Crimes

Manhattan Drug Crimes Defense AttorneyThe New York State Police now train drug detection dogs to sniff out cocaine, heroin, LSD, MDMA (ecstasy), methamphetamine, and PCP--but not, since mid-2018, marijuana. Once the state legalizes marijuana possession, which is expected to happen within the next year or so, all drug dogs trained to detect marijuana will be obsolete. Once a dog has been trained to “alert” on a particular drug, that training cannot be reversed.

The Meaning of Probable Cause for a Drug Search

The legal principle at issue is “probable cause.” Police may not lawfully search your person, car, or home without probable cause to believe that they will discover evidence of criminal activity. For example, the police cannot pull your car over for no reason; they must have probable cause that you have committed a crime. If an officer saw you run a red light or clocked you speeding, then they have probable cause to pull you over.

Similarly, if you are stopped for speeding, the police do not have the automatic right to search the trunk of your car for evidence of other offenses such as drug crimes or weapons possession. The police can, however, bring a drug detection dog over to sniff around your car. If the drug “alerts” to the presence of a drug it was trained to detect, that gives the police probable cause to do the search.

If marijuana is legal and the dog was trained to detect marijuana, then an “alert” from the dog is no longer valid probable cause for a search. This legal issue has been settled by the Supreme Court of Colorado, where it has been legal for anyone age 21 and over to possess up to one ounce of marijuana since December 2012. It is assumed that other states will follow the Colorado precedent.

Dogs who are trained in marijuana detection could still be used in high schools, jails, and other places where marijuana would remain illegal.

A Seasoned NYC Drug Crimes Defense Lawyer

If you have been arrested for possession or distribution of controlled substances, you could be subject to substantial penalties including prison time. However, if the police found the drugs after searching you, your car, or your home, it is possible that the search was not lawfully conducted. A skilled Manhattan drug crimes defense attorney can challenge the legality of the search and, if successful, could force the dismissal of the charges against you. Call Watford Jackson, PLLC at 855-WAT-JACK or 855-928-5225.





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