A dog sniff of a car can occur without reasonable suspicion during valid traffic stop


In 2004, Officer Scott Paxson initiated a traffic stop on Interstate 20 in Lauderdale County after observing a white truck bearing a California license plate swerve abruptly, causing the vehicle to cross the fog line and enter the shoulder of the interstate.

The driver, Augustine Jaramillo appeared nervous to the officer and his hands shook when he handed the officer the title, registration, and insurance papers. When asked about his itinerary, Jaramillo responded that he was returning to North Carolina after a week long stay in California where he was visiting a cousin. He went on to explain that he flew to California, purchased the truck from a salvage yard and was driving back to North Carolina.

When the officer questioned him regarding the airline he used to fly to California and his cousin’s name, Jaramillo hesitated before answering “Southwestern” and “Josie.” When the police dispatcher relayed the tag information results, the tag information revealed that the truck Jaramillo was driving was purchased over a month before the date of the traffic stop.

While awaiting the results of the license check, Paxson continued to converse with Jaramillo. Jaramillo then told the officer that he had been in California for a fifteen day stay and gave the officer inconsistent answers as to his ownership of the vehicle he was driving.

Jaramillo then gave consent to search the vehicle and Paxson retrieved his trained narcotics detecting canine from his police car and walked the dog around the exterior of Jaramillo’s truck. After Paxson’s dog exhibited a strong interest in a possible odor of narcotics inside the vehicle, Paxson returned the dog to his car and contacted Officer Chris Read, who was already en route to the scene, along with his trained canine.

Once Read arrived on the scene with his narcotics detection dog, the canine was led around the exterior of the vehicle and the dog gave a positive alert. Subsequent to the alert, the officers searched the vehicle and discovered over 4.9 kilograms of cocaine hidden in a compartment in Jaramillo’s vehicle.

Jaramillo was convicted of possession of cocaine with the intent to distribute and sentenced to 20 years. On appeal, he argued there was no reasonable suspicion before the dog sniffed his car. MCOA affirmed.


In Illinois v. Caballes, 543 U.S. 405 (2005), the U.S. Supreme Court held 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.

Had the traffic stop been prolonged unreasonably for the purpose of a canine sniff, Jaramillo may have been able to challenge the constitutionality. But, Jaramillo does not contend that the Fourth Amendment violation against him occurred due to an extension of the time he was stopped. He contends, rather, that his rights were violated by the use of the drug detecting dogs in the search.