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Are drug dog assessments accurate?

On Behalf of | May 10, 2023 | Drug Related

For years, dogs have been used to detect drugs. They are often used at traffic stops. If a dog alerts on a car, the police will use this as justification to search the vehicle. They need to have some reason – or a warrant or the driver’s consent – to search a car. A dog gives them an easy way to obtain that justification if it can allegedly smell drugs in a particular vehicle.

It’s well known that dogs can smell better than humans, which is why they’re used in this capacity. They can also be trained to alert to certain smells, such as that of marijuana specifically. But are their assessments accurate?

It’s a coin toss

You may be surprised to find out that the assessments made by drug dogs are not very accurate. Some reports claim that they’re wrong about half the time, so it’s essentially a coin flip. 50% of the time, when a dog alerts, there actually are drugs in a car, for example. The other 50% of the time, there’s nothing at all in a car and a dog has alerted for no reason or because of some other concern.

Why is this a problem?

There are those who would say that this isn’t much of a problem. After all, if there aren’t drugs in a car, there’s nothing for the police to find and the situation will be resolved. If there are drugs in a car, then a dog alerting is right and helps the police do their job. However, it’s not that cut and dry. The problem is that people are theoretically having their cars searched after a dog has alerted on their vehicle. This means that the police do not actually have a reason to conduct that search beyond an alert that may or may not be accurate.

Does this make it a violation of the driver’s rights? And if it is a violation of their rights, does that mean that even illegal drugs found during the search shouldn’t be permitted in court? These are some of the big questions being asked, and why people are concerned about the inaccuracy of drug-sniffing dogs.

If you find yourself facing very serious drug charges, it’s critical that you understand your rights and all of the legal defense options at your disposal, as seeking legal guidance may lead to a revelation that you can potentially question the results of a search involving a drug-sniffing dog.


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