North Carolina Justice Academy

North Carolina Department of Justice

K-9 Legal Issues

Please check our "Available Training" page for the most current status of the course. 

Who Should Attend:

Officers assigned to canine units, their supervisors, and any other officers involved in the operation of a canine unit.

Course Goals:

This course will instruct canine officers, their supervisors, and others involved in the operation of a canine unit in the following areas: how the use of a canine and the traditional Fourth Amendment concepts of search and seizure, reasonable suspicion, and probable cause interact; the factors that determine canine reliability in the eyes of the courts; civil liability in the context of canine use by law enforcement; and what constitutes injury to a canine under North Carolina law. This course is not limited to issues affecting drug-detection canines. The legal issues surrounding the use of tracking and apprehension canines, accelerant and bomb detection canines and cadaver canines are also discussed. The course primarily uses in-depth discussion of statutory and appellate case law to instruct students on different legal topics however, it also includes a mock trial component.

Course Objectives:

By the end of instruction, the student will be able to:
  • Explain the circumstances in which a K-9 sniff is not a “search” under the Fourth Amendment.
  • List the factors courts consider in determining whether reasonable suspicion to conduct an investigatory stop exists.
  • Explain the legal methods in which a traffic stop may be extended beyond the scope of the original purpose of the stop.
  • List the factors a court considers when determining whether reasonable suspicion exists to extend a traffic stop beyond the scope of the original purpose of the stop.
  • Define “consent to search” and discuss any limitations on that consent.
  • Describe the conditions under which a drug K-9 can be used at a checkpoint.
  • Describe the way a drug K-9 may be used to sniff at a school or on a bus.
  • Examine the factors that the courts look to when deciding the admissibility of evidence that a K-9 identified a person in a tracking case.
  • List and explain the role that training and certification of a K-9 plays when the courts determine the reliability of a dog sniff and alert as evidence.
  • List five things an officer should do while testifying in court.
  • Compare and contrast the criminal and civil systems of justice.
  • List the theories of civil liability most commonly asserted under Section 1983.
  • Explain the factors the courts use in deciding use of force claims in K-9 cases.
  • Discuss at least five preventive measures that a law enforcement agency can implement in order to reduce exposure to civil liability.
  • Describe when a currency seizure is legal using a K-9. 
  • Define what constitutes an injury to a K-9 animal under North Carolina law.


This course employs lecture, class discussion, an intensive review of appellate court cases illustrating specific topics, and a practical exercise involving testimony. Canine Officers are not required to bring their canines.

Course Requirements:

This is a basic canine law course involving an intensive review of judicial decisions and other legal sources. Attendance is required for the entire session. 


Register for ALL NCJA classes (traditional classroom and online) on our  North Carolina Justice Academy Training Portal. After signing in to the portal, you can view ALL available classes. If you don’t have a portal account, instructions for creating one are located here.


Course Coordinator:

Jarrett McGowan
Joy Strickland

Length of Course:

2 days - 16 hours

 CICP Credit

LIMIT 3 students per department