Drug dog alerting on car provided probable cause for motor vehicle exception search of trunk


In 2006, Calvin Shelton and his brother, Reginald Shelton, were traveling through Madison County as they made their way home to Atlanta, Georgia. Deputy Robert Sanders of the Madison County Sheriff’s Department pulled over their rental car because they failed to maintain a single lane as the vehicle was observed weaving off to the shoulder of the road to the center lane.

Sanders elaborated that the Sheltons crossed onto the fog line, then back over to the center line. Sanders asked the driver of the rental car, Calvin, to get out of the car and walk to the back of it with his driver’s license and the rental agreement.

Sanders testified that the Sheltons did not make eye contact with him. He also testified that they rummaged through some papers when he asked them to present their rental agreement. In addition to both Calvin and Reginald appearing to be nervous, they gave conflicting stories on the purpose of their trip.

A Terry frisk of Calvin revealed a bulge, which Calvin explained was a couple of dollars. It was actually $2,674 that Calvin said he earned from working. Calvin also told Sanders he had been arrested in the past. Calvin declined to a consent to search the vehicle. Sanders then retrieved his drug detecting dog from his patrol car, which alerted to the trunk of the rental car.

A large quantity of marijuana was found in a duffle bag in the trunk and both were arrested. Reginald Shelton was convicted of possession of more than five kilograms of marijuana and sentenced to 25 years. On appeal, he argued the marijuana should have been suppressed. MCOA affirmed.


Sanders testified that Calvin drove over the fog line and the lane-divider lines twice. In Walker, the MSC said that a law enforcement officer may stop a vehicle when there is probable cause to believe that a traffic violation has occurred.

Any person who drives any vehicle in a careless or imprudent manner, without due regard for the width, grade, curves, corner, traffic and use of the streets and highways and all other attendant circumstances is guilty of careless driving.” Miss. Code Ann. § 63-3-1213 (Rev. 2004).

Moreover, we said in Henderson that failure to have regard for the width and use of the street by swerving off the side of the road or crossing the marker lines constitutes probable cause for a traffic stop.

In Tate, we said that if, during a traffic stop, a law enforcement officer develops reasonable, articulable suspicion of criminal activity other than what was originally suspected, the scope of the officer’s stop expands and includes the investigation of the newly-suspected criminal

In this case, both Reginald and Calvin appeared nervous, avoided eye contact with Sanders, and gave conflicting stories about the reason for the trip.

Sanders then retrieved a drug detecting dog from his own patrol car. Calvin and Reginald were not detained while Sanders waited for someone to arrive with a drug detecting dog, because Sanders had a dog in his own patrol car.

In Jaramillo, we said that even without reasonable, articulable suspicion, the performance of a dog sniff of the outside of a vehicle by a trained canine during a routine, valid traffic stop is not a violation of one’s Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures.

In McNeal v. State, 617 So. 2d 999, (Miss. 1993), the MSC held that warrantless searches of automobiles based upon probable cause is a valid exception to the 4th amendment. The drug-detecting dog’s positive alerts created probable cause for Sanders to search the trunk of the rental car.