So-called “police dogs” are widely used by law enforcement officers in California and across the United States. Canines are often utilized as means of detecting the presence of illegal drugs. If a canine “alerts” for the presence of narcotics in a vehicle, police officers are provided with probable cause to search the car. However, the reality is that police dogs provide false alerts relatively often.
False alerts and violation of constitutional rights
There is evidence that a police dog might incorrectly alert to the presence of an illegal drug in a car, in luggage or elsewhere 40 to 75% of the time. A criminal defense attorney may be able to use this information as a means of arguing that a person facing drug charges had his or her constitutional protections against improper searches and seizures violated.
Absent the false alert by a police dog, a law enforcement agent would lack probable cause for the search in the first instance. When a lack of probable cause exists for a search and subsequent seizure of evidence, that evidence might be excluded by the court in a criminal prosecution.
Impact of canines that have been identified as providing false alerts
When it comes to criminal defense, the fact that a study of canines significantly failed to alert for the presence of drugs negatively impacts the work of all police dogs. The whole process of using police dogs in criminal investigations might be called into question as a result of a lack of consistent accuracy when it comes to alerting for narcotics.
If you’ve been charged with a crime based on the use of a police dog, you may have a defense based on the reliability of canines. A criminal defense attorney may provide an evaluation of your case and possible defenses.