This is the next post in my series on the handling of Austin, Texas criminal cases involving drugs or other controlled substances. My last article discussed search and seizure issues which sometimes arise in drug cases. It is important to understand that such issues can, under certain circumstances, lead to a dismissal of the charges. In this article I will discuss another important topic – whether police may have violated a defendant’s rights through the use of a drug-sniffing dog. If you require assistance then contact my office today to speak with a criminal defense lawyer.
Austin police may not detain a driver for an excessive amount of time in order to wait for a drug sniffing dog
In 2015 the United States Supreme Court decided the case of Rodriguez v. US. That decision limited the extent to which law enforcement can utilize a drug-sniffing K9 during a traffic stop. Under Rodriguez, Austin police officers may not, without good cause, extend the stop longer than it would have otherwise lasted for the purposes of bringing a dog to the scene. Extending the stop to bring a dog to the scene could potentially violate the rights of a defendant. Say, for example, that a defendant was pulled over for a broken tail light. The police generally would not be permitted to detain the person for a period longer than what is necessary to check their license, proof of insurance, and to issue a “fix it” ticket. If the officers were to require the person to wait at the scene for a dog to arrive, without some other basis for prolonging the stop, then the court may find such a delay to be unreasonable and it is possible that any recovered drugs may be excluded from evidence.
A potential exception to the rule above occurs when the police develop reasonable suspicion of additional criminal activity during the stop. Staying with the example above, suppose law enforcement stops someone due to an equipment violation. Now say the officer believes that he smells marijuana in the vehicle while obtaining the driver’s license and proof of insurance. Depending on the circumstances, the officer may be justified in having the driver exit the vehicle and wait for a drug sniffing dog to arrive. Whether the “scope” of a stop has expanded to a point where the officer may detain the driver will always depend on the specific facts of the case.
Texas courts may exclude illegally obtained drugs from evidence
If police violate the aforementioned principles, and drugs are found as a result, then it may be possible to have the narcotics excluded from evidence.
Litigating such matters is a complicated process and it is vital that you retain an attorney experienced in handling search and seizure issues. I am a lawyer who has been practicing since 1995 and I am Board Certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization for Criminal Law. Contact my office today to schedule an initial consultation.
I also serve the cities of Rollingwood, Round Rock, Elgin, Jonestown, Manor, Bee Cave, Lago Vista, Sunset Valley, Lakeway, Creedmoor, Georgetown, Cedar Park, Leander, and San Marcos, Texas.