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Indiana Police Cannot Prolong Traffic Stop for K-9 Sniff and Search

Police often use K-9 units to seek to identify drugs in a person’s vehicle during routine traffic stops. A dog sniff is not considered a search under the 4 th Amendment. However, police cannot unreasonably prolong a traffic stop in order to get a K-9 unit to the scene. If a person has been lawfully detained for a traffic infraction, police must have reasonable suspicion of criminal activity in order to detain a person beyond what is necessary to complete a traffic stop related to the reason for the initial stop.

Example of When a K-9 Unit Search is Illegal

The Court of Appeals has found that police cannot hold a person for 20 minutes beyond a traffic stop to get a K-9 Unit, without reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. In this case, the defendant was pulled over for a cracked windshield and speeding. The officer believed that the defendant might be using methamphetamine because he appeared to be extremely nervous and fidgety.  The defendant told the officer that he had a shotgun behind the front seat but did not allow the officer to remove it. The officer then directed the defendant out of his truck and performed a pat-down frisk for weapons. No contraband was found on the defendant.

Illegal Dog SearchAfter police confirmed that the vehicle was not stolen and there were no warrants for the defendant’s arrest, police called for a K-9 Unit. The drug dog indicated the presence of drugs, and police found methamphetamine inside the vehicle. The Indiana Court of Appeals later held that the dog sniff and search were illegal, because the police did not have reasonable suspicion to hold the defendant beyond the time necessary to issue him a ticket. The Court further held that being nervous does not constitute reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, because it is not unusual for a person to become nervous when confronted by police. To detain a person for a K-9 unit dog sniff, police must have additional evidence of criminal activity.

What Should You Do if Arrested Following a K-9 Search?

If you are arrested following a K-9 search, you should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. A criminal defense attorney can analyze the evidence in your case, including any delay created by police during a traffic stop, to determine if the dog sniff was illegal. This requires a detailed analysis of the facts of your case and legal research.

How Can a Criminal Defense Attorney Attack an Illegal K-9 Search?

A criminal defense attorney can attack an illegal K-9 search by filing a motion to suppress evidence. A motion to suppress evidence is the method for seeking to exclude evidence in a case that was obtained illegally by police.

When Should I Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney about a K-9 Search?

It is important to contact a criminal defense attorney immediately, because there are often strict deadlines to file motions to suppress evidence. At the Initial Hearing, courts will set an omnibus date and discovery deadlines. If you fail to file a timely defense to an illegal dog sniff, the court could preclude a viable defense. Gibson Law Office has represented clients in 57 counties and has offices in Lafayette and Fort Wayne, Indiana. Our criminal defense attorneys have extensive experience defending clients who were arrested following a traffic stop and dog sniff.

If you are the driver or passenger in a vehicle during a drug investigation, it is important to remain calm and exercise your right to remain silent. Never consent to a search of your vehicle. If you are arrested or charged with possession of a controlled substance, it is crucial to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. Call Gibson Law Office in Lafayette or Fort Wayne for a free initial consultation. You may have a viable defense to evidence obtained after an illegal dog sniff.