Everything You Need to Know About Drug Dog Sniff Searches

Legally reviewed by:
Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford P.C.
March 2, 2023

Most of us have seen dogs whose job is to sniff out drugs and other illegal substances. Whether it is at the airport or in high school hallways, these dogs are well known. However, the facts and laws surrounding drug dog sniff searches are not as well known. When it comes to your legal rights, it is critical to understand the law and how they impact you.

At Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford, P.C., we are dedicated to helping our clients understand their legal rights and aggressively protect them regardless of the charges raised against them. We believe that everyone has a right and deserves strong representation that protects their rights and best interests. 

When Can Law Enforcement Use a Drug Sniffing Dog?

While it may be easy to assume that law enforcement can always approach with their dogs and sniff for drugs and illegal substances, that is not the case, even though sometimes officers try to make it seem that it is. Whether or not law enforcement is able to use a drug-sniffing dog largely depends on the circumstances.

Search at a Traffic Stop

Law enforcement can pull drivers over for valid reasons, such as suspecting you are committing a crime or speeding. As long as the stop is legal, the officer is allowed to walk the dog around the exterior of that vehicle. Legally this is not considered a search. Therefore, the officer does not need a warrant or any suspicion of additional criminal activity. Under the law, drivers do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy, which means the dog can legally sniff around the exterior of their vehicle. However, drivers cannot be detained for a prolonged unreasonable period of time. Officers need greater justification than a standard traffic stop for prolonged detainment.  

Search Conducted at a Home

Unlike a traffic stop, law enforcement cannot legally walk around your home, in your yard, or front porch with a dog to sniff around without proper basis. They definitely cannot go inside. Law enforcement needs a search warrant or probable cause (a very good reason for needing to proceed without a search warrant) in order to have their dog sniff around or enter your home. 

Search While Walking Down the Street

In a situation where you are walking down the street, and law enforcement stops you to allow their dog to sniff your belongings, that officer must have reasonable suspicion. There must be credible information or suspicion that you are committing a crime involving drugs that warrants a drug sniff search. However, even if the dog alerts the officer that they smell drugs, the officer cannot open the bag or other belongings you have on your person. The officer can use this information to apply for a search warrant and lawfully require you to open your belongings.

Contact a Skilled and Trusted Defense Attorney Today 

The laws surrounding legal search and seizures, even those involving a drug dog, are not always commonly known. Often, law enforcement can use this lack of knowledge against people. At Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford, P.C., we ensure that our clients’ rights are protected and respected by law enforcement. We aggressively pursue the best possible results for our clients’ cases. 

Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford, P.C., at its core, is about protecting and preserving our clients’ constitutional and civil rights. When you are facing criminal charges, it is important to have a dedicated and skilled defense attorney at your side. Contact us today at (215) 822-7575 or fill out our contact form to schedule a free consultation.

Legally reviewed by:
Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford P.C.
Pennsylvania Attorney's
March 2, 2023
Established in 1952 by Irwin S. Rubin, Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford P.C. boasts over 65 years of experience serving clients throughout Pennsylvania. Renowned for its commitment to ethical representation, the firm has garnered prestigious accolades, including being named the "Best Law Firm" for its outstanding legal defense work by U.S. News & World Report. Their team of seasoned attorneys, recognized as Pennsylvania Super Lawyers and Rising Stars, brings unparalleled expertise to a wide range of legal matters, ensuring exceptional representation for individuals, families, businesses, and organizations.