Narcotics Dogs and the Search for Illegality: American Law in Canadian Courts

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Narcotics Dogs, Police Dogs, Police Search, Court of Appeal, Reasonable Expectation of Privacy, Section 8, Charter of Rights and Freedoms


Two recent Court of Appeal decisions have concluded that police use of a dog trained to detect the smell of narcotics does not constitute a search, because such action does not invade a reasonable expectation of privacy. These cases raise a number of issues, but this comment will focus only on one: the argument that the degree of privacy expected depends on the legality of the conduct being detected. In each case, the courts held that the accused had no expectation of privacy in information disclosing the possession of a narcotic. Since, they reasoned, the possession of legal drugs is not part of the "biographical core" of data that section 8 was meant to protect, each accused could claim no expectation of privacy and no corresponding constitutional right.