Is a drug-sniffing dog fallible?

On Behalf of | Dec 2, 2021 | Criminal Defense

Whether or not you have had a brush with the law before, you have likely heard about drug-sniffing dogs. They are often employed at airports and other points of international traffic in order to stop the illicit drug trade, but they can get called upon in a variety of other situations.

However, while many of us believe that drug-sniffing dogs have a high accuracy rate, just how accurate is that? Could the dog that got you pinned with a drug charge actually have violated your rights?

Drug sniffing dogs and search permits

NPR discusses that drug-sniffing dogs actually have a lower rate of accuracy than one might think. First, note that drug-sniffing dogs do not actually need a permit in order to search your car, unlike other forms of human-led searches. This is due to the fact that the law does not view it as enough of an intrusive act to require a search warrant. However, officers often use hits from drug-sniffing dogs in order to claim enough probable cause to do a more thorough search without a warrant.

What is the accuracy rating?

Unfortunately, studies show that drug-sniffing dogs can be inaccurate an astonishing 50 percent of the time. Dogs may even react to their handler’s cues which can result in false hits. These cues may be conscious or they may be unconscious, simply due to the fact that the responding officer already believes that you have drugs in your vehicle.

If a dog’s false hit resulted in an officer searching your vehicle and finding condemning evidence for crimes, then you find yourself in a bind regarding the legality of the search. You may want to seek legal counsel to learn about your options moving forward.