Drug searches in New Jersey: Know your rights

The Constitution affords a variety of rights. One that is often questioned within the criminal court system are the various rights afforded under the fourth amendment, particularly the freedom against unreasonable searches and seizures.

These rights were recently tested in the Supreme Court when the justices were asked to determine when a police officer using a drug sniffing dog violates an individual’s rights. Two cases were decided, one focusing on searches of vehicles and the other on searches of private residence. Both led to drug possession charges.

Background of the Supreme Court Cases

In Florida v. Jardines, the Supreme Court reviewed the application of fourth amendment protections to sniff searches conducted on a front porch. The case began when an anonymous tip was given that a home was used to grow marijuana. Based on this tip, an officer approached the home with a narcotics trained dog. The dog alerted to the presence of drugs, leading to a search of the home. The search resulted in the finding of drugs and the owners were issued a variety of drug related charges.

According to the Supreme Court, the officer violated the homeowner’s fourth amendment protections by conducting a sniff search with a narcotic trained dog at the home’s front door. This constituted an illegal search. Evidence confiscated from an illegal search is generally not allowed in court.

The second case, Florida v. Harris, analyzed the level of training necessary for a drug sniffing dog to be considered reliable. Essentially, it was decided that courts should use a common sense approach when reviewing a dog’s training. If the dog did what it was trained to do, an alert to the presence of drugs should be deemed reliable.

Use of narcotic dogs in New Jersey

The use of drug sniffing dogs is an issue across the country, including New Jersey. The New Jersey law enforcement team utilizes K-9 officers for patrol, narcotic detection and apprehension of suspects. In fact, a narcotics dog unit was used recently to search the vehicle of a Sussex man suspected of dealing drugs. When the officers requested a search of his vehicle, the driver refused. This led officers to conduct a sniff test with a narcotics trained dog. The test was conducted around the man’s vehicle without his consent. The dog alerted to the presence of drugs, and based on this alert a warrant was issued for a more thorough search. The search resulted in evidence that led to a variety of drug charges.

There are specific laws that must be followed before a search can be conducted. The issues that arise with drug trained dogs are just a few that can be questioned in a criminal case. In the case above, the man may question whether or not the dog used for the test received the proper training discussed in the Supreme Court case. In order to build this defense, he will have to research the dog’s background.

An additional issue that can arise includes whether or not an officer had reason to pull a car over. If not, the stop may have been a violation of the driver’s rights. If a person accused of a crime can prove that his or her rights were violated, any evidence confiscated during the search may not be eligible in court. This could lead to a reduction or dismissal of charges.

Contact the Newark Attorney You Can Count On

If you are charged with a drug crime, contact an experienced New Jersey drug possession defense lawyer to review your case and help build a strong defense. Regardless of the situation that you are facing, you can rest assured that the team at the Law Offices of Robert J. DeGroot is here to offer the help that you need to make it through a difficult situation.

With several decades of experience under or belts, we’re here to help ensure that your rights are tenaciously defended as we fight to secure a positive income in your case. When you need an attorney you can count on to go to bat for you, we’re here to help. Contact us today to get your initial consultation.