– from Matthew X. in Merton, WI
Yesterday I was pulled over for speeding on I-94. The squad car that pulled me over was a K-9 unit and they ended up searching my car. The dog smashed and broke my radio and also bite a hole in my dashboard. After assaulting my car they officer forced me to open my trunk to search it. The trunk is only accessible with the key. I was under the impression that a warrant was needed to search a trunk without probable cause. Should I hire an attorney and take action against the police officer?
Criminal Defense Attorney Response:
If a drug dog provides an alert to the officer, even in the event of a normal traffic stop, it is considered probable cause. When dog alerts the officer the police officer has two options
- detain you and your vehicle and wait for a warrant from a judge to search your vehicle, or
- perform the search knowing that if anything is found there is a high likelihood the evidence will be suppressed due to the lack of a warrant.
Some police officers are too eager to wait for a judge. A criminal lawyer will likely file a motion to suppress the evidence if something is found. This is one way to teach over eager police officers a lesson not to over extend their authority and maintain the rights of the citizens they are sworn to protect.
In the case you described you have the option to seek a civil rights claim against the police officer. A seasoned civil litigation attorney will have the ability to examine the facts and research case law on vehicle searches under similar circumstances.
At a minimum you will likely be entitled to obtaining damages to repair your vehicle. The police station will likely try and play hardball with you and not quickly or conveniently pay to fix your car. Your best option is to see an attorney and get a repair estimate for your car.
Jeff Hughes, J.D.