Automatic Consent to K-9 Searches

Randy Valdivia was stopped along Interstate 80 by a Pennsylvania State Trooper, after failing to use his blinker when changing lanes. During the stop, he signed a form consenting to a vehicle search, and a canine sniff of packages in the car revealed that Valdivia possessed marijuana. He was arrested for possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver.

Valdivia was sentenced to a minimum of 11 and a half months in state prison for this violation. However, he has challenged this verdict, claiming that his consent to vehicle search did not include a canine sniff. The issue was brought before the Pennsylvania Superior Court on February 1, 2017, but they maintained that “a reasonable person would have understood that Valdivia’s consent encompassed canine sniffs of packages found in his vehicle,” according to Judge Patricia Jenkins.

However, there is still some dispute over whether it was legal that the troopers called the K-9 unit to the traffic stop, without ever informing Valdivia. Because of this dispute, the issue will be brought before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court later this year.

The decision and opinion following this review could result in an important decision about your rights as a driver on Pennsylvania roads, and voluntary consent searches. This blog will be updated as soon as possible to reflect the Supreme Court opinion.

If you have recently consented to what you feel is an unfair consent search that violated your legal rights, or have questions about voluntary consent to vehicular search, contact Tim Fleming at wtfleming@fleminglaw.info or call Fleming Law Offices at 814-278-5280.

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