Articles Tagged with Your Rights in Vehicle Searches

Arizona Court of Appeals Upholds K-9 Search of Vehicle; Police not required to advise that Drug K-9 will be used with Voluntary Consent; Your Rights in Vehicle Searches Q & A

In a recent case ruling the Arizona Court of Appeals upheld a woman’s conviction for possession for sale of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia.

The central issue in the Appeal was whether or not a K-9 drug search of her vehicle was within the scope of a voluntary consent to search she agreed upon.

Case Facts and Court Opinion

The case arose when an officer stopped the defendant for a cracked windshield and speeding. The officer issued a written warning and a repair warning.

Following the issuance of citations, the officer asked the driver if he could search the vehicle.

The driver answered yes.  The officer then gave her a consent-to-search form that was written in both English and Spanish. The officer and the driver conversed in English.

The form the officer gave her was written in both English and Spanish.

The suspect read and signed the Spanish portion of the consent form.  The officer asked her if she understood what she had signed. She acknowledged that she understood.

The consent-to-search form which the driver signed was central to this ruling.  With it, she consented to the following terms:

  • She could refuse to have her vehicle searched;
  • She could withdraw her consent to search at any time;
  • Evidence found during the search could be used against her in court;
  • The consent did not include property of other passengers in the vehicle.

Following the signing and affirmation of consent, the officer instructed the suspect and the passengers to leave the car and stand 20 feet away.

The officer then went to retrieve his drug K-9 from the patrol car to conduct a search of the suspect’s vehicle.

The officer would later testify that the defendant was standing where she could see him remove the K-9 from the car.

The suspect did not say anything to the officer at that time. She did not object to the K-9 search, or withdraw her consent at any point during the K-9’s search.

The vehicle’s exterior with the K-9, did not elicit an alert.  However, upon investigation of the interior, the dog directed a positive response at a purse on the driver’s seat.

The dog went back to the patrol car, and the officer searched the purse.  The officer found methamphetamine (meth) inside the purse.  The suspect confirmed that the purse with the meth inside belonged to her.

The defendant filed a motion to suppress the evidence. She argued that seizing the methamphetamine was a Fourth Amendment violation because the K-9 search was outside the scope of her consent.

The trial court found that  Continue reading