Using dogs in Jacksonville Drug Cases

August 9, 2012

As a Drug Crime Attorney in Jacksonville, I have represented many Duval County criminal clients who were arrested after a drug dog sniffed their vehicle. Whether you are pulled over in Duval, Clay or Nassau County, the police must follow proper procedure before and during a traffic stop when using canines. If you are pulled over for a Traffic Violation in Jacksonville, the officer can only give you a Duval County Ticket unless he or she has a "reasonable suspicion" a crime has, is or is going to be committed. After you are stopped, an officer can have a drug dog sniff your vehicle, but the time it takes for the drug canine to arrive cannot extend beyond the time reasonable required to issue the Jacksonville traffic citation. If the dog alerts to a specific area of the car and police subsequently find drugs in your vehicle, in order for that "sniff" to be legal, the dog's reliability must be established.

When canine drug dogs are trained, they receive around ten weeks of training. During this training, the dog learns odors of illegal drugs, including cocaine, crack, methamphetamine, marijuana and heroin. In addition to detecting specific drug odors, the dogs are put to the test when other strong odors are present along with the drug smells. Certified drug dogs must have maintenance training.

When determining whether or not a canine is sufficiently reliable to alert in a Jacksonville criminal case, the court must look at the totality of the circumstances. The Jacksonville State Attorney's Office has the burden of establishing probable cause and has to give over all records about the dog to the court. The first thing that must be established is that the dog was properly trained and certified. That training has to be explained so the court can evaluate how well the dog was trained and whether the canine has ever falsely alerted during its training. The Duval County State Attorney must also show records of how the dog has performed on the street, including the canine's successes and failures. Finally, the prosecutor must show the training of the dog's officer handler.

Jacksonville police officers pull over cars all the time, but it is important to know your rights. If you have been arrested for a drug crime in Duval, Clay or Nassau Counties, call our Jacksonville Drug Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, at (904) 365-5200. Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Law Firm is available to you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.