Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled police dogs could not be used on a suspect’s property without having a search warrant.
Previously, the high court held that a sniff is not a search because air does not belong to anyone, but now they say if the dog used for detection on someone’s property it constitutes a search under the 4th Amendment.
Many law enforcement officials worry the decision could limit the way K9s can be used.
In Abilene, K9 officers spend a lot of time each week training their dogs.
A dog’s sense of smell is thousands of times more sensitive than humans. That comes in handy when an officer is trying to detect explosives, drugs or people.
Narcotics dogs can be used anytime an officer has reasonable suspicion that a person may be in possession of illegal drugs.
"Because it's a free air sniff it’s not a search as defined by the supreme court what the dog is doing is he’s examining the air around the vehicle which the person inside the vehicle doesn't own,” said Kevin Pyeatt, K9 officer with the Abilene Police Department
Once a dog alerts on a car, it becomes probable cause. Then officers are allowed to search inside.
"We can prove in the low 90's that our dogs are accurate based upon either physical evidence at the scene, what the officer saw when they made the traffic stop or through interview with the people inside the car," Pyeatt said.
However, even patrol dogs can get it wrong sometimes.
"That can be from somebody that has had it in the car at one time and even though there's nothing in there now the odor is still inside the car," said Chris Ortiz a Taylor County Sheriff’s deputy K9 officer.
Abilene’s K9s are tested each year during the U.S. Police Canine Association Certification. 22 dogs from 16 different agencies are testing during this week's Region 25 competition.