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Indiana Court Holds Two Minute Delay for K-9 Search Unlawful

Police cannot delay a traffic stop in order to conduct a dog sniff for drugs without reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. The Indiana Court of Appeals has ruled that even a delay of less than two minutes violates the 4th Amendment.

In this case, a woman was stopped for speeding by a police officer. After obtaining the woman’s driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance, he placed those items on his car seat and removed his trained canine. The police dog then conducted a free-air sniff and alerted to the presence of drugs. According to the officer, the canine sniff process lasted approximately one-and-a-half to two minutes.K9 dog

The officer then searched the car and found of bag containing methamphetamine. The officer ran the routine checks of the woman’s license and registration after the search of her vehicle was complete.

After being charged with possession of methamphetamine, a Class D felony (this offense is now a Level 6 felony), the defendant filed a motion to suppress evidence alleging that the search was unlawful.

Oftentimes the officer who makes the traffic stop calls a second officer to conduct the dog sniff while he is processing the traffic ticket. However, in this case, the officer chose to suspend the traffic stop to perform the canine sniff himself. The Court of Appeals concluded that the traffic stop was clearly delayed by the dog sniff, and that even a two minute delay increased the duration of the seizure outside the scope of the traffic stop. As a result, the search of the defendant’s car was unlawful. The evidence of illegal drug possession was suppressed and the methamphetamine charge dismissed.

Was the Search of My Vehicle After a K-9 Sniff Illegal?

Police often call for a K-9 unit when conducting an infraction traffic stop, with the hopes of detecting illegal drugs. However, police cannot delay the time needed to process the traffic stop to conduct the dog sniff unless there is reasonable suspicion of a crime. Police often claim to smell marijuana to justify extending a traffic stop for a K-9 sniff.

How to Defend a Possession of Marijuana or Controlled Substance Charge After a K-9 Sniff

Defending drug charges after a K-9 sniff requires a detailed analysis of the timeline of events. Dispatch logs should include the precise time a traffic stop was initiated and when a canine arrived on the scene. Police video is increasingly common and may also provide helpful evidence to a defense attorney. If the traffic stop was delayed to conduct a search for marijuana, methamphetamines or other controlled substances, the search may be unlawful.

An Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney is Critical in Dog-Sniff Cases

Gibson Law Office has extensive experience defending dog sniff cases, including in Tippecanoe, Miami, and Pulaski County. Indiana Courts have trended toward defendant-friendly outcomes protecting against unlawful vehicle searches. It’s important to be represented by a criminal attorney who has experience analyzing traffic stop timelines and applying the most recent cases. With offices in Lafayette and Fort Wayne, our criminal attorneys defend drug cases statewide.