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If a dogs alert provides probable cause to search a vehicle or luggage does that cover locked and sealed containers within?

New York, NY |

from the research i've been doing. i've seen multiple cases where an "alert" of a qualified k9 is sufficient to provide probable cause to search a vehicle and luggage which are covered under the vehicle exception for a search warrant. but if a package is sealed, locked or wrapped to conceal the identity of what is being store within it requires a warrant. if a dog alerts on a suitcase being carried in an airport its subject to search. yet that same suit case being carried in a car would not be allowed to be searched because its not covered under the exception. so would a bag or container withing a suitcase also not fall under the same rules as the suitcase withing the car? the supreme court seems to be all over the place on this issue.

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Attorney answers 3


The case would be very fact sensitive. As you have said different courts have made different rulings. There is no way to state based on the facts presented which way a court would decide. Good luck.

I have been a criminal attorney in New York for almost 25 years. website: Phone #: 718-208-6094 email: This answer is only for informational purposes and is not meant as legal advice.


The very simple answer is as follows, though there may be other factors at play.

If probable cause justifies the search of a vehicle, it justifies the search of every part of the vehicle and its contents or containers that may conceal the object of the search. Where officers have probable cause only with respect to a container in a vehicle, they may search the container, but not the entire vehicle.

The exposure of an item located in a public place to a trained canine for a "canine sniff" does not constitute a search or a seizure, provided that the dog is properly trained and is lawfully present at the site of the sniff. This is so because a canine sniff does not expose noncontraband items to view and discloses no information other than the presence or absence of drugs, and because a person has no legitimate expectation of privacy in the odors emanating from his or her belongings in a public place. Neither probable cause nor reasonable suspicion is necessary.

Atty: 845-704-7777. This answer is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. You should not take action based upon this information without consulting legal counsel. This answer is not intended to create, and does not create, an attorney-client relationship. PLEASE REMEMBER: All claims and legal matters have statutes of limitations and/or other important time periods that apply to them. This means that you must take action on all claims or legal matters within the required time period(s) or your claims could be barred by the statute of limitations or dismissed. Contact our office or another competent attorney immediately to discuss the particular facts of any claim or legal issue you might have in order to learn what time periods apply to your particular situation.



im not disagreeing with your answer by no means, but that really isnt practical. if a box is in a car then the dog is going to alert on the car giving way to probable cause to search entire vehicle. it would have to alert on vehicle to get to the box within. the only clear answer i can figure out of everything thus far is, if you dont want the world to know your doing something(or at least police)(legal or not) then hope and pray you dont get pulled over because an officer with a dog will search you whether you want them to or not............ a dog need not be specific in its alert, it just needs to alert. thank god they dont use those same rules and requirements with dogs that search for missing people! and if they do then i pray im never in need of being found if its acceptable fora dog not have to be specific in finding you as long as they can find someone...

Daniel DeMaria

Daniel DeMaria


As far as I know, police dogs can really only search for bombs and drugs (and possibly people as well) - so unless you have bombs or drugs, you really don't need to worry about anything. If you're asking this question because you've been arrested, you should consult a lawyer from Avvo to discuss your case, many lawyers (including myself) offer free consultations.


I've seen cases go both ways on this. They are very fact specific. I hope your lawyer is working as hard as you are on this.

I am a former federal and State prosecutor and now handle criminal defense and personal injury/civil rights cases. Feel free to check out my web site and contact me at (212) 577-9797 or via email at I was named to the Super Lawyers list as one of the top attorneys in New York for 2012. No more than 5 percent of the lawyers in the state are selected by Super Lawyers. The above answer is for informational purposes only and not meant as legal advice.



you and me both! yet i dont believe he is. thank you for your time and responding to this question

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