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Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney
Former Cook County Felony Prosecutor

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Know Your Rights When Dealing With Illinois Drug-Sniffing Dogs

Airport security can be stressful enough, but when officers walk by with dogs, everyone seems to tighten up. No one wants a drug-sniffing dog to walk by and start barking.

Unfortunately, countless drug-sniffing dogs have made a scene over someone who wasn’t doing anything illegal. Some studies even show that these dogs are more often wrong than they are right.

Despite this, drug-sniffing dogs are still intimidating, and the act of sniffing someone’s personal belongings or body for drugs can feel like a violation. If you’ve ever asked yourself, “Are drug-sniffing dogs lawful?” then you’re not alone.

Illinois Law Enforcement Sometimes Overstep Boundaries with Police Dogs

The truth is, drug-sniffing dogs are constitutional for the most part, but law enforcement officers may use them to their advantage and overstep boundaries.

Know when you can say “no” to a sniff from a drug-sniffing dog in Illinois. Avoiding contact with these animals may just save you the hassle of being charged with drug crimes.

Can Drug Dogs Sniff You in Illinois Public Places?

The answer is yes and no. Sometimes they can. Other times, Illinois police may need a warrant in order to bring a drug dog around to conduct searches.

In order to determine whether these dogs are lawful in your specific circumstances, you have to ask yourself: “do I have a reasonable expectation of privacy here?”

Law enforcement officers cannot conduct searches with drug dogs if there is a reasonable expectation of privacy in the area.

This means that in public schools or big music festivals like Lollapalooza, drug dogs are perfectly legal. Even if a whole row of dogs is waiting to sniff you at the entrance to the festival, you just have to walk by and hope they don’t smell something around you.

Neighborhoods and private property are a different story. Private schools, for instance. If the administration asks the officers to come in with drug dogs, there is little you can do to object.

On the other hand, if law enforcement officers want to stop by your neighborhood with dogs, they’ll need a warrant and a good reason to search the area.

Can Drug Dogs Sniff You in Illinois Public Places?

Can Drug Dogs Be Used During an Illinois Traffic Stop?

When it comes to drug dogs and cars, the line becomes even more blurry. Multiple Supreme Court cases have ruled on the validity of using drug-sniffing dogs at traffic stops.

While drug-sniffing dogs may be able to sniff you if you’re pulled over, there are still rules. They can only be used if the dogs were at the traffic stop, to begin with.

An Officer Must Already Have a K-9 on the Scene

Let’s say the police pull you over for having a broken tail light. A broken tail light doesn’t give the officers any clue as to whether or not you have drugs in the car. But if the officer comes over with a dog to get your license and registration, that dog can start to do its job.

The Illinois Supreme Court ruled that this was okay in the case of Illinois v. Caballes. Cars at a traffic stop apparently don’t have the same reasonable expectation of privacy that cars parked in their driveway.

Even though the police pulled you over for a reason not related to drugs, the drug-sniffing dog is allowed to sniff away.

So, what if the dog wasn’t there, to begin with?

You Do Not Have to Wait for a K-9 to Arrive

You get pulled over for having a broken tail light, and the police tell you to wait by the side of the road while they call in a drug dog. Is that legal?

No. According to Rodriguez v. U.S., detaining someone or extending a traffic stop to wait for a drug dog is illegal. Once the officer has gone through standard procedures, they have to let you go.

There is no reason for you to have to wait for a drug dog to come over, especially if you were pulled over for speeding, a broken tail light, or any other reason that is not related to drugs.

What If You Know Your Rights Are Being Violated in Illinois?

You might find yourself in a tricky situation involving a traffic stop, a search, or a drug dog. Firstly, you need to know your rights.

Officers need reasonable suspicion before they can call in a drug dog. Once the officer has explained why you were pulled over and taken your license and registration, ask them if you are free to go.

Chicago Drug Crimes Defense

You should be unless the officer can give reasons why they suspect you have controlled substances in the vehicle. If they can’t give you a reason, you should be free to go.

Keep an Illinois lawyer’s number on hand if you are detained and know that you have the right to object to a search or remain silent throughout this process.

 

 

About the Author:

Andrew M. Weisberg is a former felony prosecutor who now serves as a defense attorney in the greater Chicago area. He has extensive experience in handling all types of criminal cases, from sex offenses and domestic violence to retail theft-related crimes, murder, and drug crimes.

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