Tennessee police officers will investigate and find a reason to conduct a search when they have a suspicion that a person is in possession of illegal drugs. In many drug searches, it is not at all uncommon for police officers to bring along a drug-sniffing dog.
Using drug-sniffing dogs might be commonplace, but it is also a point of controversy. So, here are a few critical things you should know.
Dogs detect more than humans
Police departments – and many other security organizations – began using dogs to detect illegal substances because of their superior sense of smell. For example, a drug search conducted by police officers would generally rely on their sense of sight. Meanwhile, dogs can be trained to detect even the barest hints of illegal substances on a person or within a property.
However, this has led to some issues.
Police officers use dogs as a workaround
Back in 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that it violated the Fourth Amendment if police have a dog sniff at the door of a location they suspect to be growing illegal substances. The ruling declared that this was a search in and of itself.
Yet, issues continue to arise on this front. Many police officers still have drug-sniffing dogs sniff at the door, or in other locations that would be considered private.
Why? Often, police use drug-sniffing dogs as a tactic to:
- Find a reason to obtain a warrant
- Work around the limits included in a search warrant
This is a deliberate violation of your privacy – and your rights.
Moreover, are these searches even reliable?
There are many factors that affect searches involving drug-sniffing dogs. These include:
- The relationship between the dog and handler
- Law enforcement tactics and training
- A dog’s nature
- The very specific steps required for a search
For example, drug-sniffing dogs have been found to take cues from their handler’s body language – whether they are intentional or not. In another case, the handler gave the dog treats when the dog alerted them to an illegal substance. This led to many false positive searches, simply because the dog sought rewards.
These are not exactly examples of unbiased or fair approaches to searches. On top of that, the rates of success from these searches vary significantly. This is often due to the factors listed above.
The risk of such a search, as well as the issues surrounding them, make up just a few of the reasons why it is so critical to understand your Fourth Amendment rights.