Sniffer dog searches : Should they be legal?

Should sniffer dog searches be legal?

With the growing number of drug related offending in NSW, and the prevalence of drug taking at music festivals, the NSW continue to rely heavily on the searching of individuals following a sniffer dog’s “indication”.

Usually a sniffer dog, following a cursory sniff of an individual, will “indicate” to the Police officer.

Police procedure automatically take this as a right to search an individual for prohibited drugs.

But according to recent data collected by the NSW Greens, police sniffer dogs have proved to be highly inaccurate.

Individuals who are subject to a search are often humiliated and embarrassed in public, the majority of the time for no reason at all, according to the data collected by Greens.

When can a police officer search me following the use of a sniffer dog?

Yes, if the Police officer believes that the sniffer dog has indicated that drugs are on you, the Police will insist on searching you. Whilst you can voice your disapproval of the search, if you refuse, the Police will arrest you, and with force and execute the search against your will.

What does this data show?

According to the data (Source: Dr Will Tregoning, David Shoebridge), in 2013, more than 15,000 people were subject to a search following the use of sniffer dogs in NSW. The statistics are as follows:

  • 64% of searches found no drugs in 2013.
  • Nearly 17,800 people searched.
  • 2.44% of searches led to successful prosecutions.
  • Passengers at Redfern Station 6.5 times more likely to be searched than passengers at Central Station.

When will the law in relation to police sniffer dogs change?

The common law position in relation to searches will only change when it is challenged, and determined in a higher court.

Currently, the law states generally, that a search can be effected by a Police officer if there is “reasonable suspicion” that an individual is carrying an illegal substance, or committing a criminal offence.

It will not be until this position is challenged specifically in regard to Police sniffer dog searches that the law will change.


Call LY Lawyers on 1300 595 299 if you feel you have been subject of an illegal search.