Search and seizure issues often arise in criminal cases. When police conduct a traffic stop and later search a vehicle, the legal analysis may involve several steps in determining whether police acted lawfully. Dog sniffs are a complicated issue that has been the subject of many appellate decisions in recent years.
For instance, in 2002, the Minnesota Supreme Court found in a case known as State v. Weigand that law enforcement exceeded the scope of a routine traffic stop by using a dog to sniff around a car for potential drugs. Police had stopped the car for an alleged equipment violation. The court said that officers unlawfully expanded the scope of the investigation because police did not have a reasonable basis to suspect that drugs may have been in the car before parading a dog around the vehicle.
Traffic stops are frequently expanded to driving while impaired probes when law enforcement claims that a driver shows indicia of impairment during the stop. But, a driver may be accused of many other offenses after being pulled over for an alleged traffic violation.
A Minnesota State trooper pulled out his dog during a traffic stop on Interstate 35 last week. The trooper claims that he clocked a driver from Iowa traveling 74 miles per hour. Authorities say that the Iowa man was also driving erratically before he was pulled over.
The trooper says that he began to suspect that the driver was under the influence during the traffic stop. Prosecutors say that the man told the trooper that he came to Minnesota to go to Cabela’s. The trooper says that he could not see any merchandise from the store in the vehicle. The trooper claims that he saw some kind of leafy substance on the floor of the car and apparently decided to investigate for evidence of potential drugs.
Prosecutors say that the trooper had a dog in his cruiser, which was used to sniff around the stopped Minnesota car. Authorities say that the dog alerted. Law enforcement rummaged through the vehicle and authorities say that methamphetamine and other things were found in the car. Prosecutors claim that the total weight of meth found in the vehicle exceeds 100 grams.
The driver now faces a first-degree controlled substance crime charge. The trooper thinks that the driver was under the influence of meth and authorities are also pursuing DWI charges against the driver.
Source: Owatonna People’s Press, “Iowa man charged with possession of methamphetamine after Steele County stop,” Al Strain, June 17, 2014