PUEBLO CO - DECEMBER 11: Vince Petkosek, with the Pueblo Police Department K-9 Unit, works with Sage, a yellow lab, outside the department on December 11, 2018 in Pueblo, Colorado. Sage joined the department last December specifically because she does not alert to marijuana, which is a new non-skill needed by Colorado law enforcement agencies. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post)

Colorado Supreme Court rules police need probable cause before using pot-sniffing dogs to search for drugs

Colorado’s highest court ruled Monday that police using K9s trained to alert to marijuana now require more evidence about a suspected crime before they can use dogs in a search.

In a 4-3 ruling, the Colorado Supreme Court found that under the state constitution, a dog trained to alert to marijuana cannot be used before an officer establishes probable cause that a crime had been committed. Previously, officers only needed to suspect that a crime had occurred — a much lower standard.

For decades, police dogs were trained to alert to pot. But after Coloradans voted in 2012 to legalize recreational possession of small amounts of the substance, the dogs’ sniff tests in the state have become controversial because they can alert even if a person has a legal amount of marijuana.

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