What are your rights during a canine search?
A narcotic canine alert of a vehicle does not provide grounds to search the pockets of the vehicle’s passengers according to a recent appellate decision.
In Thomas v. State, the police stopped a van in which Thomas was a passenger for a minor traffic offense. The police had been watching the van based on an informant’s tip. A police dog alerted to the driver’s side door but the police found no drugs in the van. Thomas refused to consent to a strip search. The police took him to their station and put him in an interrogation room. When officers saw Thomas take something from his jacket and place it in his mouth, they forced his mouth open removing a plastic bag containing heroin.
The Indiana Court of Appeals held that the dog’s alert on the van did not provide probable cause for a fishing expedition into the occupant’s pockets. Detaining Thomas and transporting him to the police was unreasonable and the evidence obtained from this seizure and subsequent search must be excluded as evidence.
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