K-9 Drug Dog Searches

Police officers may use drug dogs, referred to as K-9s, to identify illegal drugs and contraband in a variety of scenarios, often during traffic stops. But there are stipulations surrounding the use of K-9 searches, and reasons to question their reliability altogether.

Challenging K-9 drug dog searches

For the majority of legitimate traffic stops, police are legally allowed to walk a drug dog around a vehicle. If during that time the K-9 indicates to its handler hat it smells some type of drugs or contraband, police then have probable cause to conduct a search of the vehicle. The legality of these searches comes into question if the traffic stop is prolonged for the purpose of conducting a dog “sniff-search” without either driver consent or reliable information that a crime is being committed beyond the traffic infraction. Other factors used to challenge dog searches can include a drug dog’s reliability record and matters of subjectivity.

Read more

If an officer has a K-9 dog on hand when he pulls you over for a traffic violation, he can walk the dog around your vehicle at that time. But most officers don’t usually have drug dogs during typical patrol. In this case, they can’t just call dogs to the scene and detain you until dogs arrive without reasonable suspicion. It comes down to the duration of the traffic stop: Without a factual basis for suspecting criminal activity, police aren’t allowed to hold you to wait for dogs to come to the scene beyond the amount of time it takes him or her to run your tags and write a ticket.

Even in the case of a legal search, since K-9’s lack articulable language skills, their response during a sniff-search in any given situation is subject to their handler’s interpretation. This is not to say that a K-9 cannot often communicate very clearly in a manner that would be universally understood. For instance, most would agree that many dogs can exhibit “danger” signals which will not be easily misconstrued. However, the type of behavior exhibited in many sniff-search cases requires a level of interpretation that could readily be manipulated (even inadvertently) to serve the interests of the K-9’s handler as opposed to providing reliable and accurate information, especially in instances where there isn’t a reasonable suspicion raised while the officer is conducting the routine aspects of the traffic stop.

A K-9’s ability to reliably identify contraband is periodically tested for accuracy and this can be reflected by a K-9’s “certification.” However, the manner in which they are often evaluated is also highly subjective and can be unreliable. One way to evaluate a K-9’s accuracy, for example, is by calculating the number of false positives it has returned in real-life scenarios. When a K-9 alerts despite the absence of contraband — returning a “false positive” — the dog’s handler will frequently defend the K-9 by attributing the false positive to invisible “trace residue” that may have left a lingering odor on whatever item it was that caused the K-9 to alert.

Schedule a consultation
Contact Erin
  • Briefly tell us about what we can help you with.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Attorney Erin H. Gerstenzang

Criminal defense for K-9 drug dog searches

None of this is to suggest that law enforcement should completely discontinue the use of K-9’s during investigations, however these issues raise serious questions regarding the current use of K-9 alerts to support a search. Depending on the details of your case, an experienced criminal defense attorney can argue for evidence to be suppressed.

If you’re facing drug possession conviction following a K-9 drug dog search, Attorney Erin Gerstenzang can help fight your charges; challenging the search in a drug charge case is one of the most successful legal methods for having your drug charge dismissed.

Contact us today

What it's like to work with Erin

Pleasant, effective and efficient – thanks Erin!

I wanted the best possible legal outcome and Erin also came highly recommended through another lawyer. She was 100% worth it. Without getting into specifics, I would not have managed the same outcome if I appeared in court on my own. She knew the system, the judges, the court, etc and was extremely timely in her communications and follow-up in the lead up to my court date. Hiring was simple (electronic documents and payment); we communicated over calls and texts, without me having to meet her till the morning of my court date. She was patient in answering all of our questions and explained the legal scenarios clearly. So glad we hired her given the peace of mind and result. Thank you Erin!

Great Lawyer!

Erin was amazing to deal with from start to finish. She really knew what she was doing and knew her way around the courthouse and prosecutors so that we could get the best result possible. She was very professional and communicated things to me very quickly and easily. She helped me out of a somewhat major traffic violation with only a fine. I would highly recommend her to anyone.

DUI

If you are definitely looking for a lawyer that would represent you because they have your best interest at heart, Erin is the right person for the task. Not only would she explore and exhaust all options for your case, but she would guide you and give you feedback. She is excellent , knowledgeable, experienced and friendly. I was facing DUI and I had priors before, Erin was able to fight on my behalf and secure a favorable outcome in my case.

Great Lawyer!

Erin was amazing to deal with from start to finish. She really knew what she was doing and knew her way around the courthouse and prosecutors so that we could get the best result possible. She was very professional and communicated things to me very quickly and easily. She helped me out of a somewhat major traffic violation with only a fine. I would highly recommend her to anyone.

Stellar Lawyer

I hired Attorney Erin regarding traffic; I was so impressed with her thoroughness engagement and professionalism. She was able to get the largest charge dismissed and I paid a fine for the lesser charge. She was engaged and caring. I always knew what was going on and her prices were very reasonable. This is the lawyer to trust!

Erin saved me time, money and a whole lotta tears

Erin is top notch and made everything easy + seamless when I was feeling very frustrated and upset. I got a speeding ticket in Brookhaven and was not only thrilled with the result she achieved, but also how quickly she helped me.

As an attorney myself, I thought about handling the ticket on my own. I’m so glad I didn’t! She got me a better result than I ever could have imagined in no time. Get off the fence and contact her if you want this weight lifted off your shoulders.

Great Traffic Lawyer

I’ve been a lawyer long enough to know that traffic court, especially in the City of Atlanta, is a very specialized practice. Accordingly, when our son was involved in a minor traffic accident, and we did not want to have to submit to the Atlanta Traffic Court’s “Pre-Trial Intervention-Traffic” scam, we reached out to Erin to handle it. Through her knowledge of the system, the solicitors, and the judges, she got us a great result, which was certainly much better than we could have achieved on our own.

I highly recommend her.

Amazing Lawyer Hands Down!

Erin deserves nothing less than five stars for her intelligence, commitment, passion, and success as a lawyer. With such an abundance of passion for her practice, Erin is one of the best lawyers in town. She is caring, and can move mountains for clients. Whether I needed help day or night, she was always there for me. Law is not just a job for Erin, but it is a passion and a part of her life. Her success in her cases shows her dedication to her clients. I would recommend Erin in a heart beat to anyone who is looking for a lawyer who not only cares about winning a case, but cares about the clients future. I don’t know what I would of done without Erin by my side supporting and representing me.

Really Really Great Attorney

Let’s start by saying I was charged with D.U.I ; Marijuana possession; Single car accident on a major highway here in Atlanta; & Refused sobriety test. It didn’t matter Mrs.Gerstenzang went to work had charges reduced to Wreckless Driving with a reduced fine. No headaches of D.U.I classes, no drug evaluation; no probation.

She was Awesome! I would recommend her to represent you. Trust me.

Fantastic lawyer, best possible outcome for the case

Erin was hired for a DUI case involving prescription medication. What made the case difficult was because of certain medical issues the client was not able to participate in his own defense. Erin had to think outside the box in representing the client, which she did with great compassion and success. She did a wonderful job of keeping us informed of her plans for representation and was always available to speak to us when necessary.

In our experience Erin really went to bat for her client. If you need legal representation in this area she is the best.

Very Impressed

I was referred to Erin through my older cousin who had used her in the past for a DUI case. This was my second DUI so he recommended her as one of the best in Dekalb county. My case was a very peculiar one and there were a lot of factors involved because it involved DUI, Hit and Run and Equipment violation. Erin was able to get all my charges dropped and only have the Equipment violation. I am THOROUGHLY pleased with the gracefulness and professionalism that Erin upheld throughout the entire process. She never seemed defeated or became flustered no matter what new evidence presented itself. She was very knowledgable and I Would definitely recommend her to anyone dealing with DUI or any other criminal offense.

Absolutely the best, kindest, most upfront and caring attorney I have come across!

I called Erin for a simple consultation, and WOW, the wealth of knowledge the gave me was enough for me to go into court and represent myself effectively! She is not a crook or a scam artist out to take advantage of you, she genuinely cares about you and wants you to come out victorious, whether you do or do not use her. I highly recommend her, because not only is she sweet, kind and caring, she is upfront, honesty and to the point – exactly what a lawyer should be! She is definitely an asset to the Atlanta area attorneys and to any client who should choose to use her! There is no better option.

Erin Saved My License!!!

I was arrested for DUI in July, and it was a very scary and stressful time. Erin was able to turn all of that around for me.

The video of my arrest was terrible…after watching what I could stomach, it was apparent that Erin had her work cut out for her. My case was very complicated, and there were several factors that made it difficult to win. In court, it was very clear that Erin is highly respected among her peers. Erin was able to guide me through this tough time, while keeping my driving status in tact, not to mention avoiding jail time! I appreciate Erin’s hard work and dedication.

The best call I ever made

I found myself in a bit of a bind and needed someone that knew the system and could respond quickly. Erin turned on a dime to get me out of the immediate situation I was in and then worked with me to resolve the larger issues with in a month. I have her number in my cell phone and gave it to my family and friends so they know who to call if something goes wrong.