Court: Drug-sniffing dog isn’t enough to search vehicles in Colorado

DENVER — The Colorado Court of Appeals has issued a ruling in a case that changes the precedent for when police can search a vehicle.

The panel of judges ruled that a signal from a drug-sniffing police dog is, by itself, does not give police the authority to search the vehicle, if all the occupants are 21 years or older, the Daily Sentinel reported.

Because marijuana is legal in Colorado, and dogs can’t indicate which kind of drug they detect, or how much, the judges agreed police need more cause to search a vehicle without permission from the owner.

“A dog sniff could result in an alert with respect to something for which, under Colorado law, a person has a legitimate expectation of privacy,” the Sentinel quoted Judge Daniel Dailey as stating.

The original case involved a Moffat County man who was pulled over in 2015 because he allegedly made a turn without using a turn signal, the paper reported.

A sergeant with the Moffat County Sheriff’s Office and his drug-detection dog were called in and the dog indicated drugs were present.

After the alert from the K-9, police searched the vehicle and found a glass pipe “commonly used to smoke meth,” according to the paper.

The man’s attorney fought to have evidence from the search suppressed, but the man was later convicted of possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of a controlled substance.