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Drug charges dropped after wife says police dog smelled chicken

One tool that police in Michigan commonly use on residents suspected of possessing drugs in their vehicles is the police dog. These animals are supposed to be able to detect the scent of drugs, which can give officers probable cause to search your car.

As with other police procedures, police dogs do not work 100 percent of the time. They sometimes produce a false positive, or officers use the dog in a way that violates the civil rights of the people inside the vehicle.

Drug charges against a man in another state were about to be dropped as of April 7. Prosecutors denied that their decision had to do with a police dog that apparently reacted to chicken wings instead of alleged drugs, but refused to provide an alternate explanation.

The charges are related to a traffic stop from January 2013. Officers went to a gas station and detained an SUV with a married couple and their son inside. They brought over a police dog, which began scratching at the bottom of the front passenger side door.

The officers used that as justification to search the vehicle. They claim to have found nine ounces of cocaine and a handgun inside. However, they said those items were in the rear of the SUV, not where the dog indicated.

The wife said that she stashed some chicken wings in a compartment of the door before the dog arrived. That, along with the family’s female dog, may have been what the police dog smelled.

The husband was arrested on drug charges. On April 3, his wife testified about the police stop before a judge. The next day, prosecutors said they would drop the case, without saying why.

If a drug-sniffing dog provides a false positive, a defense attorney could argue that any evidence from a subsequent police search could not be allowed in court. Police need probable cause to search your car. Failing that, the search could be a violation of your Fourth Amendment rights.

Source: The Trentonian, “Charges dropped in chicken-sniffing drug case,” Paul Mickle, April 7, 2014

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