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Use of Drug-Sniffing Dogs and its Constitutional Implications

The United States and Pennsylvania Constitutions protect against unreasonable searches and seizures.  In a number of cases, the United States Supreme Court has had to address the issues of whether the police's use of a drug-sniffing dog constitutes a search and, if so, whether that search is unreasonable.

The court has held that whether the use of a drug-sniffing dog is a search depends on the factual circumstances surrounding the case.  For example, the Court has held that police may use a drug-sniffing dog to sniff the outside of lawfully seized luggage or the exterior of a lawfully stop vehicle so long as the police use of the trained canine does not extend the lawful seizure of the luggage or vehicle.  The Court held that this use of a trained canine is not a search because the intrusion is so minimal since the police have already lawfully seized the luggage or the vehicle.  Therefore, since this police action does not constitute a search, the police are not required to have any level of suspicion to use the dogs.

In one of its most recent cases, however, the Court held that the police use of a drug-sniffing dog to sniff the exterior of someone's home does constitute a search and, in those cases, the police must have more than mere suspicion to use the dogs.

If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime arising from a search or seizure, contact the experienced and aggressive attorneys at the Kelly Law Firm for a free consultation regarding you or your loved one's rights.

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