Police K-9's and the Constitution: What Every Lawyer and Judge Should Know

Positive K-9 dog “alerts” — indicating the odor of drugs — are treated as probable cause in most states. Judges are too eager to blindly accept affidavits from police officers that their drug-detection dogs were trained and certified, and that alerts by their dogs justified a warrantless search or justified the issuance of a search warrant. K-9 alerts, however, are unreliable and should not constitute probable cause. Dogs learn that an alert results in a treat or a reward in most instances, even if no drugs are found. Moreover, in a world in which drug and nondrug users share currency, door handles and other objects, K-9 alerts based on the presence of residual drug odors are meaningless.