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Police dog searches of defendants’ cars

Nebraska residents who have ever heard about police canine searches of vehicles during traffic stops have right to be concerned about the potential violation of their rights and privacy. The thought of being pulled over for a minor traffic violation and then having the situation escalate would be frightening to anyone. Understanding what is and is not allowed when it comes to vehicle searches during these stops can be helpful.

According to the Nebraska Legislature, the state’s laws forbid searches or seizure of property that are deemed unreasonable as a way of protecting people’s rights. However, that does not mean officers can never perform searches. If a driver is being arrested, officers at the scene are legally allowed to search every part of the person’s vehicle, including locked compartments. No search warrant is required for this to happen.

A Nebraska traffic stop that sent a defendant to prison for five years became the subject of a 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision. After being issued a traffic citation, the man was further detained until another officer arrived and a police dog located drugs in the car.

Think Progress reports that the Supreme Court ruled that law enforcement must not keep motorists stopped for longer than what is required for the original stop purposes. The challenge in this ruling is that what can be considered a reasonable length of time to process a traffic violation is rather vague. In addition, what if a dog is allowed to sniff a vehicle in the time that is considered reasonable? Whether or not this is legal is not clearly understood.


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