Something In The Air: A Brief Overview of Minnesota Drug Sniffing Canine Law
Minnesota has had a great influx in drug sniffing canine cases challenged and reviewed recently. There are many factors to address when a defendant has a drug case pending due to an officer using a drug sniffing canine to search a vehicle. Here is what you need to know...
The Initial Stop: Reasonable & Articulable Suspicion is NeededFor law enforcement to stop a motorist, the officer must be able to demonstrate a "reasonable and articulable suspicion" of criminal activity to warrant stopping the vehicle. Breaking virtually any traffic law (such as speeding, failing to signal, or having defective equipment) can lead to the initial traffic stop. Additional signs of poor driving (due to alcohol or drug impairment) can lead to increased suspicion that a crime is underway or that the vehicle may contain evidence of illegal materials.
Further Detention: What is Needed?Article I, Section 10 of the Minnesota Constitution requires that each incremental intrusion during a traffic stop be tied to and justified by one of the following: (1) the original legitimate purpose of the stop, (2) independent probable cause, or (3) reasonableness..." . During a traffic stop, an officer's questions must be limited to the purpose of the stop. Illegal evidence in plain view or any illegal evidence that is admitted by the driver or even the passenger of a vehicle may give an officer sufficient grounds to detain and investigate further. The odor of narcotics (frequently the odor of marijuana, either in raw format or by way of marijuana smoke) can be just the reason to extend the stop and allow the officer to call for a canine sniff.
Signs Of Trouble: What signs can show an officer to allege that drug trafficking may be underwayThere are many signs that law enforcement in Minnesota try to point to as evidence that drug trafficking is underway, giving the officer sufficient grounds to continue a detention and call for a drug sniffing canine. Such signs include, but are not limited to: (1) odor of raw or burned narcotics; (2) odor of air freshener which may mask the odor of raw or burned narcotics; (3) Out-Of-State license plates on the vehicle, signifying transportation of drugs (frequently from "source states" where medicinal and recreational marijuana has been allowed or decriminalized (hello Colorado, California, and Washington drivers!); (4) driving on a "drug corridor" highway (frequently a higher speed interstate); (5) evidence of "hard travel" including minimal luggage and trash/wrappers in the car, showing that the motorist is on a "business trip" and not interested in sightseeing; (6) suspicious vehicles that appear to have hidden or obstructed compartments or weighed-down suspensions, signifying heavy loads of drugs inside; and (7) "nervous" occupants, who make incriminating, nonsensical, or contrary statements of the other passengers. All of these signs may lead an officer to bringing a drug sniffing canine to sniff the outside, or even inside, of the vehicle. What will they find? Trouble!
Get Help! If you have a drug case, you need to have an experienced attorney to review your case!The stop, questioning, canine sniff, and subsequent search of any motor vehicle within the State of Minnesota by law enforcement is subject to the rule of law. If you have questions about these actions in your own case, or in the case of a friend or loved one, you need to have the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney to review each step and to challenge the unlawful actions taken by law enforcement. The Constitution of the United States and the Minnesota State Constitution each protect you! There is a lot of case law and statutory law to review as well. Protect your rights and protect your future by fighting back! Always consult with an experienced and dedicated criminal defense attorney before deciding what steps to take in any drug case.