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K9 vehicle search in Pa.


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  • K9 vehicle search in Pa.

    I wanted to get some opinions or maybe some pertinant case law on this incident.

    Officers conducted a lawful traffic stop on a vehicle with three occupants in it. In plain view, 2 marijuana joints were seen in the vehicle's open ashtray. Occupants were removed from the vehicle and terry frisked. They were not arrested at this point (not cuffed). A canine, which is proven to be reliable, was called to do a canine sniff of the vehicle. An exterior sniff was conducted and the canine alerted. An interior sniff was then conducted and the canine alerted to a backpack that was under the drivers seat. Inside the backpack a substantial amount of marijuana was found. Subsequently the driver was arrested for the marijuana.

    Our DA's office says the canine sniff and search was illegal. WTF!!!

    Now, I live and work in a state where federal case law means absolutely nothing and I also in one of the most corrupt counties in the US (Current Judges scandal that was featured on 20/20). In addition to that, our DA's office does not like to have to work for any conviction, unless its a DUI.

    Does anyone have case law that would support this as a good search? Again, federal case law means nothing. (When turning over federal case law to an ADA before, I was told "don't bother with that, its federal case law and we can't use it".)

  • #2
    Check out this forum. Post number #9 is PA specific. Dont know if that will help you or not.



    • #3
      I've read the case law from the post from Smokey231 and I can't see why then case wouldn't be charged. In the second section the vehicle exception allows for the search if the evidence of a crime could be removed or hidden from law enforcement and if probable cause exists to believe that there is evidence of a crime contained in the vehicle. The marijuana in plain view and the dog alert give you probable cause for both. Seems like your District Attorney is a little too lazy or liberal.( maybe both) The only thing you may have done different was arrest all of the occupants of the vehicle for the dope in plain view and impound the vehicle, then jump through the hoops and get a warrant. But this is not really the most efficient way of working. In my area the dope in the ashtray would be a muni ticket if it was a first offense. If it was a second offense it would be a misdemeanor dope arrest and most likely no processed. They would have charged the dope in the car in Wisconsin


      • #4
        Forgot to mention I was a dog handler for 9+ years and in the Drug Unit for over 7 years.


        • #5
          An inventory search, search warrant, exigent circumstance or consent are the only way I can see you searching that car. You can see marijuana in the vehicle, that is you reasonable suspicion for a K9. The dog hits on the car. The totality of the circumstances I can see probable cause for a search warrant to be issued. Or you arrest the driver for the marijuana in plain view and a search incident to arrest of his backpack you discover the marijuana. PA v. Timko, "a police officer may conduct a search of an arrestee's person and the area within an arrestee's immediate area of control as a matter of course"

          Don't want to Monday morning QB it but just giving you my opinion. PA is a weird state compared to the rest when it comes to some things like this.


          • #6
            If you're looking for help with case law try looking up Stan Cohen. He's a former cop and current prosecutor. He has helped some of our guys with case law. He writes some opinions in a newsletter our PD gets. I think it is called the Pennsylvania Police Criminal Law Bulletin. Your PD probably gets it. He recently did an article on PA and vehicle searches. I hope this helps. But speaking from experience in PA, I think you're gonna have a tough time. If you have an inventory search policy you could try to argue inevitable discovery. Good luck. Welcome to PA.


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