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How reliable are drug detection dogs?

As is the case across the country, Georgia authorities use drug detection dogs in their work. A properly trained police dog in theory is supposed to be able to pick up on the scent of drugs and alert police to their presence.

Legally, the dog gives police information that they can use to claim probable cause and then search a person’s vehicle or other property. Of course, if the police find contraband, the target of their search will then face serious drug or other criminal charges.

The problem is that some studies have indicated that these drug detection dogs are not reliable. For example, an agency from another state cited studies suggesting drug detection dogs are inaccurate over 70% of the time.

More disturbingly, another study the agency cited showed that in over half of all uses, a drug dog falsely indicates the presence of drugs. The agency was discussing the use of drug detection dogs in treatment facilities.

Another issue is that even if a dog detects the presence of drugs correctly, the dog cannot tell when a person was last around marijuana or other controlled substances and cannot explain the circumstances of why a person was around drugs.

Atlanta-area residents should understand their rights with respect to drug dogs

Atlanta-area residents do have certain rights when police use a drug detection dog. For example, during a traffic stop, the police cannot unnecessarily delay the stop just so they can bring a drug dog to the scene.

If a person is facing a drug charge in Georgia in part because of a drug dog, they may have legal options for mounting a defense to the charges.

In some cases, it may be necessary for a person to fight charges, even if it is their first encounter with the criminal justice system.  Mounting a defense to drug allegations can protect a person’s future professional and other opportunities.