Legal marijuana may create problems for police dogs

When Colorado voters approved the legal use of marijuana, it was sure to have a major impact on law enforcement. Police officers would have to learn the new rules that would be put in place. Individuals that followed these rules could not be arrested for committing crimes.

When police would make a traffic stop on an individual that they suspected was in possession of drugs, they would frequently use a police dog to check for the presence of illegal substances. These dogs were trained to uncover many different substances, and marijuana is one drug that they would alert officers to if detected.

With marijuana now legal, additional training may be necessary for the dogs. If the dogs alert, officers may believe that an individual has illegal drugs, but may in fact be in possession of a legal amount of marijuana.

The use of drug-detecting dogs to investigate potential drug crimes is currently being considered by the United States Supreme Court. Both of the cases originated out of Florida. In the first case, officers received an anonymous tip that an individual was growing marijuana inside his home.

Officers monitored the residence in question. After a short time, one of the officers took a drug-detecting dog to the porch. The dog indicated that drugs were present, and police then used this information to obtain a warrant to search the house, and the drugs were found.

In the second case, police performed a traffic stop. When the officer approached the man's vehicle, he observed the driver demonstrating certain conditions which were associated with someone under the influence. The officer asked for permission to search the vehicle, and the man refused.

A drug-detecting dog was led around the vehicle to do a "free air" search to see if the dog picked up on any drugs. The dog alerted to the vehicle's handle, and the man's vehicle was then searched. Chemicals used to make methamphetamines were found inside.

Both of these cases are focused on the training that the dogs receive, which could have a major impact upon use of the dogs in Colorado. It is often unknown exactly how successful dogs are at finding drugs, because in many instances, the officers only report the alerts that result in arrests for drug crimes. Mistaken hits, or alerts where no drugs are present, are generally not recorded by law enforcement.

If you have been charged with a drug crime, speak to an aggressive criminal defense attorney to help protect your rights. You have options, and it is important to learn about the consequences of a conviction, and the impact that it can have on your future.