Drug Dogs and Traffic Stops

What to do if… Police extend a traffic stop to conduct a drug dog sniff

What to do if police extend a traffic stop to conduct a drug dog sniff.  Can police do that?  Are there any restrictions?  More importantly, what can you do to protect your rights in this situation.  Hi, my name is Dale Savage and I’m a criminal defense attorney here in Charleston, SC. Today we’re talking about police drug dogs at traffic stops.

When Can Police Use a Drug Dog?

So here’s the question we’re dealing with today. Can police conduct a drug dog sniff around your vehicle after the completion of the traffic stop without a legal reason? The answer to that no.  A traffic stop exceeding the time needed to handle the matter for which the stop was made is a seizure in violation of the 4th Am.  This means its unlawful for police to prolong a traffic stop beyond the time needed to complete the mission of issuing the ticket for the violation.

What’s the Law

But the law goes even further than that, because the U.S. Supreme Court said that the critical question is not whether the drug dog sniff occurs before or after the officer issues the ticket – but whether conducting the sniff prolongs, adds time to, the stop. This is important because what the court is telling us is that police must diligently go about completing the traffic stop and not cause unreasonable delays just because they want to use a drug dog. Police can request your driver’s license, proof of insurance, and registration because they are necessary to ensure vehicles on the road are operated safely and responsibly on the road but no more.

If police go outside of those limited parameters, then they need to have a separate legal reason or that prolonged detention is an unlawful seizure in violation of the 4th Am.

This decision from 2015 brought clarity to the issue because depending on what state you were in police could prolong the stop to use a drug dog if it only extended the stop for 7-8 minutes, less than 10 minutes, or a short time, whatever that means.  The Supreme Court put a stop to all that and stated not only is it unlawful to police to detain you after a traffic stop for any amount of time but they can’t extend the traffic stop before it’s complete to give time for a drug dog to arrive.

Legal Defenses

Now that we know this, how do you assert a defense in these cases.  Good attorneys know that it’s vital to request certain pieces of evidence in you case.  It’s not enough to just get the police reports, you need the traffic ticket, dash cam and body camera videos, and you need the CAD report.

These documents are important because they will document the time and sequence of what police did during the traffic stop, including the time of when the stop was started and how long it took to write the ticket.  Did police have a legal reason for prolonging the stop or were they going on a fishing expedition.  Did they delay the stop to wait for another officer with a K-9 to arrive or if they delayed the stop to use their own K-9.

Charleston, SC Criminal Defense Attorney

So if you have a case involving a police drug dog, please call me at (843) 530-7813, I hope this video was helpful and thanks for watching.

Scroll to Top