Arizona Court of Appeals Sides with State in Dog Sniff Case

In a recent case before the Arizona Court of Appeals, the defendant unsuccessfully argued that a police officer’s canine search of her vehicle was unwarranted. Originally, the defendant was charged, convicted, and sentenced for possession of a narcotic drug for sale. On appeal, she argued that the evidence of the drugs should have been suppressed at trial because the officer did not have a legal basis for having his canine search her car. The court of appeals disagreed with the defendant and affirmed the lower court’s decision.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, a state trooper stopped the defendant and her friend because they had been following other cars too closely on the road one evening. The officer pulled the car over, asked the defendant and her friend a few questions, and requested that each individual hand over their identification. Neither the defendant nor her friend had a valid driver’s license.

The officer asked the pair if his dog could sniff around the car, and they both consented to the sniff. At that point, the dog alerted near the passenger door, and a search of the car revealed 275.6 grams of heroin under the defendant’s seat. A second search of the car revealed an additional 272.2 grams of heroin.

The defendant was charged and convicted of possession of a narcotic drug for sale.

The Decision

On appeal, the defendant argued that the officer’s use of the dog to search the car improperly extended the traffic stop. Under case law, dog sniffs conducted during lawful traffic stops are acceptable as long as they do not prolong the traffic stop “beyond the amount of time reasonably necessary.” Here, said the defendant, the dog sniff prolonged the traffic stop unnecessarily and thus violated her constitutional rights.

The court examined the record in the case and ultimately disagreed with the defendant. The officer requested identification from both of the individuals in the car, and the defendant could only provide an Arizona identification card, while the driver could only provide a suspended license. Thus, it was reasonable for the officer to further investigate the situation and see if there was any suspicious activity going on in or around the car.

Given this suspicion, the officer was within his rights to ask the defendant and her friend if his dog could conduct a sniff search of the car. The defendant’s rights were thus not violated, and her appeal was denied.

Are You Facing Drug Charges in the State of Arizona?

Speaking with a police officer in Arizona can be an incredibly scary experience, and we meet too many clients who incriminate themselves in these interactions without knowing their rights or the options available to them. At the Law Office of James E. Novak, our Phoenix criminal defense attorney prides himself on being an expert in the individual rights of criminal defendants, and we make sure each one of our clients is well-versed in the opportunities they have to defend their freedom. For a free and confidential consultation, give us a call today at 480-413-1499.

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