Can the Police Use Dogs to Search My Car?

Police Car

Have you been pulled over for a traffic stop? Did the police ask you to search your car, and to use the K-9 unit?

You might wonder if the police are allowed to use dogs to search your car, and the short answer is, yes, police officers may be able to use dogs to sniff the outside of your car.

Generally, the police have a wide range of authority to search someone's car. If the police see a traffic violation, or suspect other "criminal activity" such as Driving While Impaired, the police can legally stop you. Once you are stopped, the police have probable cause to search the car IF they believe evidence related to the crime they stopped you for may be present in the car. So, if they walk up to your window and see or smell marijuana they then have reason to search your car. This does NOT mean they necessarily have probable cause to search the occupants of the car. Using dogs to sniff your car to see if there is any potential drug paraphernalia or drugs present may be part of that search.

But what if you didn't allow the police to bring the K-9 unit, are they allowed to go ahead and bring out the dogs anyway? Again, the police may be able to do that, if they believe that evidence of wrongdoing might be in the car. If the police suspect that you are Driving While Impaired, and may believe that you have marijuana present in the car, they will probably be allowed to use dogs to detect the presence of possible marijuana or other drugs.

If you have questions about a recent search the police conducted of your car, or general questions regarding searches, call the Law Offices of Wiley Nickel, PLLC., located in Cary, NC at 919-585-1486. You can also send an email to Kristi Haddock at, or Wiley Nickel at


Wiley Nickel

Wiley Nickel lives and works in Cary, North Carolina. In 1998, he graduated from Tulane University with a major in Political Science and a minor in History. After college Wiley went to work for Al Gore and travelled with the Vice President as part of his national advance staff. Following the Gore campaign he earned his law degree from the Pepperdine University School of Law in 2005. While in law school Wiley worked as a law clerk in the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office where he gained valuable criminal trial experience before taking and passing the California bar exam. His first job out of law school was for the Merced County District Attorney’s Office where he worked as a Deputy District Attorney with a focus on prosecuting DWI offenders. Wiley later joined the Law Offices of Joseph Uremovic where he focused on civil litigation and family law. When the opportunity came to join the Obama campaign in 2008 Wiley jumped at the chance. He spent three years travelling with President Obama as a member of his national advance team. In 2011 Wiley left his work for the White House to return to the practice of law. Wiley devotes the majority of his practice to the areas of criminal law, family law, traffic tickets and DMV issues. The Law Offices of Wiley Nickel was started with the goal of providing the best representation possible for all of his clients. Experienced, Compassionate, Aggressive Criminal Defense While defense attorney Wiley Nickel works as the primary attorney for all of his cases, he does have an associate attorney, a team of investigators, forensic consultants, and support staff to call on to help achieve the best possible result in every case. He limits his case load so that he can focus on providing the best possible legal defense to all of his clients. Every case is a top priority and the goal is to have your case dismissed with a focus on being able to expunge your charges at the end of the process. When he is not working, Wiley is an avid family man, distance runner and golfer. He loves North Carolina college sports and is hoping this is the year for Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers. Wiley is licensed to practice law in North Carolina and California.