Will the City Reimburse Damages that Occur During a Canine Search When Nothing is Found?

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects individuals against unlawful and unreasonable police officer searches and seizures. This includes searches and seizures that take place in a person’s home or on a person’s property. Police officers sometimes use specially trained dogs to conduct these searches – especially at airports and traffic stops. These types of searches are legal in public places. Moreover, if the drug dog alerts to the presence of drugs during a search, this serves as the necessary probable cause for the officer to conduct a further search of the property, home, or vehicle for incriminating evidence.

Drug dogs, however, are not always accurate when they are the ones doing the searching. Moreover, canine searches of property and vehicles sometimes result in significant damages. In cases where a drug dog search was unlawful, any incriminating evidence that was obtained against you may be dropped, which can result in a complete dismissal of your charge – or your entire drug case.

The knowledgeable criminal defense lawyers at Granger and Mueller PC can assist you with defending against a pending Austin drug charge. We may also be able to assist you with pursuing compensation, in the event your property was damaged during a canine search where no drugs were found.

Pulling Over a Vehicle

In order for a drug dog to lawfully search a vehicle, the officer must have had reasonable suspicion to pull your vehicle over in the first place. Austin police officers cannot pull vehicles over at random. They can, however, pull vehicles over for minor traffic offenses, such as having a taillight out or for a non-working turn signal.

Moreover, once the stop occurs, the officer cannot detain a person for an unreasonable period of time, unless he or she reasonably suspects that a controlled substance is present in the vehicle. Therefore, the officer cannot force the accused to wait on-scene for a drug dog to arrive, unless they reasonably believe that drugs are present in the vehicle.

Damages that Occur During Drug Dog Searches

Drug dogs are not always correct when they alert to the possible presence of drugs in a vehicle or some other location. In fact, during the search, they can inflict significant property damage.

If no charges are filed following a drug dog search, the issue of repayment of property damage is often very fact-specific. In many jurisdictions, the question of property damage payment centers on whether the search was reasonable or unreasonable under the circumstances.

For example, if the police officer had the necessary reasonable suspicion to allow a canine ‘officer’ to search the vehicle or other location (i.e., the officer reasonably suspected that drugs might be found in the area searched), the search was likely reasonable, and the property owner will likely be responsible for any damages incurred – even if nothing is found. However, if no such reasonable suspicion for the search existed, then the city may potentially be liable for property damage that occurred during the search.

Speak to an Experienced Austin Criminal Defense Lawyer Today

If you have been arrested on drug charges where a canine ‘officer’ was involved, you should speak with the experienced team of attorneys at Granger and Mueller PC about your legal options. To schedule a free consultation and case evaluation with an experienced Austin criminal defense attorney, please call us at (512) 474-9999 or contact us online today to learn more.