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When can law enforcement use drug dogs for a search?

Police departments began using dogs in the 19th century for security and control, but it was not until the 1960s that dogs were used to detect illegal drugs. It is thought that Israel was the first country to do so, with France soon following. Military police used drug dogs during the Vietnam War to reduce drug smuggling into the United States. Today, it is common to see drug dogs being used in airports, schools and at traffic stops. Businesses are even using private companies that employ drug dogs and handlers to search employees' desks and lockers to find illegal substances.

The Fourth Amendment

Under the Bill of Rights, Americans are protected from "unreasonable searches and seizures," as it states in the Fourth Amendment. What constitutes unreasonable searches has long been debated by politicians, lawyers and judges. As police use more advanced technology, it is certain that more cases will be brought before the courts, but today's question is about what the courts say about using drug search dogs.

The U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on drug dog use traffic stops

In Illinois v. Caballes (2005), Roy Caballes was pulled over for speeding, but arrested for marijuana trafficking. A drug dog discovered the presence of illegal substances in Caballes' car. Caballes challenged his arrest, and the Illinois Supreme Court reversed the conviction. The U.S. Supreme Court heard the case and ruled that the search did not violate the Fourth Amendment. However, there are some limitations under this ruling. The police cannot detain you indefinitely after a traffic stop to have a drug dog sniff your vehicle.

What about using drug dogs on private property?

Caballes' case did not change the legal atmosphere about using drug dogs in private homes. In 2013, the Court heard Florida v. Jardines, a case in which law enforcement used drug dogs to detect drugs on the property of Joelis Jardines. At the heart of the matter was not whether drug dogs could detect drugs or not, but the legality of the search. The Florida Supreme Court sided with Jardines, whose lawyer argued that the search was illegal. The State filed a motion to have the case heard again, but the Court denied it. Ultimately, Florida v. Jardines was heard in the U.S. Supreme Court, which held that when the government uses trained police dogs, it needs a warrant to investigate a private home and property.

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