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COA: Dog sniff requires reasonable suspicion

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Analyzing the issue for the first time, the Indiana Court of Appeals today determined reasonable suspicion is needed to conduct a drug-detecting dog sniff of a private residence. Even though the state didn't argue the police had reasonable suspicion, it established the officers relied on the warrant executed after the sniff in good faith.

In Jonathon Hoop v. State of Indiana,  No. 49A02-0807-CR-666, Jonathon Hoop argued his rights under the Fourth Amendment and Article I, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution were violated when police used a dog to sniff around the front door of his home to detect drugs.

The dog sniff came after a confidential informant told Sgt. Jason Bradbury of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department that Hoop was growing marijuana in his Beech Grove home. A check of public utility records showed Hoop was using more electricity than previous occupants.

Based on the dog's behavior during the drug sniff, Bradbury applied for a search warrant of the home. The searched turned up numerous marijuana plants, bags of marijuana, a digital scale, cash, and firearms. Hoop was charged with Class D felony dealing in marijuana and Class D felony possession of marijuana. His motion to suppress evidence was denied, resulting in this interlocutory appeal.

Hoop relied on United States v. Thomas, 757 F.2d 1359 (2d Cir. 1985), to argue the dog sniff is a search within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. But the 2nd Circuit's ruling that a canine sniff of a residence may constitute an unreasonable search has been criticized by numerous jurisdictions and goes against the United States Supreme Court ruling in U.S. v. Place, 462 U.S. 696 (1983), wrote Judge Melissa May.

As long as an officer is lawfully on the premises, he or she may have a dog sniff the residence without implicating the Fourth Amendment. As such, the police could go to Hoop's front door using the walkway that would ordinarily be used by any visitor. The dog sniff alone was reasonable enough to establish probable cause and validate the warrant under the Fourth Amendment, wrote the judge.

The Court of Appeals hadn't considered the validity of a warrant based on a dog sniff of a residence under the Indiana Constitution. Hoop claimed his case is similar to Litchfield v. State, 824 N.E.2d 356, 359, (Ind. 2005), which required reasonable suspicion to search a trash can; the state countered that a dog sniff only reveals the presence of or absence of contraband and doesn't reveal private details.

"As Litchfield placed overriding weight on the need to restrict arbitrary selection of persons to be searched, and that same concern is present here, we conclude reasonable suspicion is needed to conduct a dog sniff of a private residence," she wrote.

The state failed to address whether the confidential informant's tip and the information about Hoop's power usage established reasonable suspicion, but it argued the officers relied on the warrant in good faith. Because the officers relied on the warrant in good faith, the Court of Appeals didn't decide whether the officers had reasonable suspicion.

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  3. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  4. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  5. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

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