Threat To Call For Drug Dog Did Not Void Consent – State v. Elders

Today’s Appellate Division decision, State v. Elders deals with the consensual search of an automobile on the Turnpike. Two troopers encounter two automobiles stopped on the roadway. One of the vehicles had broken down and was in the process of being repaired by the occupants. Based upon extensive on-scene questioning, the troopers developed a reasonable suspicion that evidence of a crime might be hidden in one or both of the vehicles. The troopers sought to obtain consent from the purported “owner” of the vehicles at the scene. When he refused to sign the standard consent to search form, the trooper explained that in the absence of consent, he would request that a drug-sniffing dog be brought to the scene to continue the investigation. Upon hearing this, the “owner” signed the consent to search form. The subsequent search uncovered distribution levels of CDS. All of the occupants were subsequently arrested.

At the motion to suppress, the defendants maintained that the threat to call in a drug dog vitiated the voluntariness of the purported consent. The Appellate Division disagreed and held that since use of a drug sniffing dog would have been legally appropriate, given the level of suspicion the troopers had, the promise to call for the use of a dog was not a threat but only a legally correct statement as to what would be the next step in the investigative process in the absence of consent to search.

Download a copy of State v. Elders.

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