Drug dogs have been trained to find narcotics. This means that the dog might alert its leader to narcotics through their odor rather than their actual presence. This can pose a problem for many reasons; most notably because the improper use of drug sniffing dogs can violate a U.S. citizen’s 4th amendment right.

Experienced drug possession lawyers have likely had many cases that involve drug sniffing dogs. Often the individual was stopped with large amounts of cash or narcotics. In some cases, the dog was alerted because of the odor of narcotics, then led the police to actual drugs. In other cases, the dog was alerted to an odor, but no narcotics were ever found. Law enforcement personnel will often claim that rather than this type of search being a false alert, the dog was alerted to trace amounts of drugs that were once present in that area. 

In a case like this, a good drug lawyer, like a drug lawyer in San Francisco, CA, might inquire about the use of various technologies, such as ion scanners, to detect substances in parts per million. It is not uncommon for police to fail to confirm the odor through any other means apart from the drug sniffing dog. One might wonder why this technology is not used. The answer is likely because it would be able to prove that some of the drug dog alerts are false. In other words, police only need an alert from the dog to establish a potential presence of narcotics. If further technology was utilized, it could actually disprove the reliability of the dog. 

Alert and Indication

In many jurisdictions, the police go off of an alert or indication. These are behaviors exhibited by the dog and consistent with the presence of narcotics. 

  • Alert – Alert generally refers to an aggressive behavior exhibited by the dog. It may suggest the dog is interested in the area that is being searched for, but is not considered to be probable cause. 
  • Indication – When the drug sniffing dog exhibits an indication of drugs being present it may be enough for police to investigate further. Bear in mind, if the dog only alerts but does not indicate, police are generally not allowed to search the area. If the dog barks, scratches, sits down, or displays another trained behavior in the suspected area, it may be an indication of drugs. 

There are cases in which a dog alerted police, but did not display their trained behavior that is required for an indication. For instance, if the dog was trained to bark in the presence of drugs but only sat down, a police officer might argue that sitting down was enough to qualify as an indication. A good drug possession lawyer might argue that this claim defies logic as the dog was not trained to sit; therefore, it did not do what it was supposed to do. In this case, there could be enough grounds for a dismissal. 

The best drug possession lawyers will remain skeptical and continuously look for logical ways to challenge evidence. When drugs have been found by a drug sniffing dog, it doesn’t mean the dog found them correctly. If you believe your car, home, or office was unlawfully searched because of a false alarm by a drug dog, call a drug possession lawyer today. 



Thanks to The Morales Law Firm for their insight into how drug dogs work and how a drug possession lawyer could help if you were charged with possession.