This is scary; don’t let it happen to you this holiday season!

With New Year’s Day approaching don’t ruin your holiday with a DUI or drug possession charge.

In a recent case, Dominick Law Offices represented a man who was stopped for an expired license plate.   The case resulted in a drug possession charge.  Here is how that happened.

The officer told the driver that the reason he stopped him was because the registration on his vehicle had been cancelled.  The officer then told the driver that if the driver did not have any active warrants everything would be fine.  The officer ran the driver’s name through dispatch.  It is undisputed that 25 minutes after the original stop, a drug detection dog (K-9 unit) arrived at the scene.  The dog did a sniff of the car, which is legal without a warrant, and alerted on the vehicle.  A search of the vehicle found, in a camera case located in the rear of the vehicle, less than 1 gram of marijuana.  The driver was charged with misdemeanor possession of marijuana.  There was no reason for the officer to suspect marijuana use – no smell emanated from the vehicle and the driver was not under the influence of drugs.

The defense moved to suppress the marijuana seizure under the theory that it was seized in violation of the driver’s constitutional rights.  The United States Supreme Court has held that a seizure that is lawful at its inception can violate the Fourth Amendment if its manner of execution unreasonably infringes upon interests protected by the Constitution.  A seizure that is justified at its inception can become unlawful if it is prolonged beyond the time reasonably required to complete that mission.  See Illinois v. Caballes, 543 US 405 (2007).  In other words, a driver cannot be detained longer than necessary to issue a citation.

At the suppression hearing, the officers testified that they had not requested a K-9 unit.  Rather, it was the practice of the police for K-9 units to show up at a simple unregistered vehicle stop and conduct a drug sniff.  The magistrate believed the officers’ testimony and ruled that there was simply a delay in receiving information concerning the driver and therefore taking 25 minutes to issue a citation was not unreasonable.  Please note that it is the policy of the Boise Police Department that if a citation is issued before a K-9 unit arrives then the dog will not be allowed to conduct a sniff of the vehicle.  Therefore, the officer had reason to delay issuing the citation.

While ultimately this matter was resolved based upon a plea to the lesser charge of frequenting, or being in a place where drugs are located, this case is scary because anyone stopped for any reason can be delayed so that a drug detection dog can come and sniff the vehicle.  Many people use marijuana for various reasons such as a sleep aide.  There are medical marijuana laws allowing subscriptions for marijuana in some of our surrounding states.  The lesson to be learned is that if you want to avoid having your holiday wrecked while in Idaho, do not under any circumstances keep marijuana in your car or even in luggage in the back of your car.  Even if there is no probable cause to search your car for marijuana possession, no drug smell, no indication of drug use by the driver, etc., the police can and will have a dog sniff the vehicle to determine whether drugs might be present.  If the dog alerts on the vehicle, then it is perfectly legal for the vehicle to be searched without a warrant because the alert provides probable cause for a search of the vehicle.

If you or someone you know receives a DUI or a drug possession charge this holiday season, or need a Boise or Idaho criminal defense attorney, divorce attorney or personal injury attorney, then please contact Dominick Law Offices, PLLC, for legal representation.

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