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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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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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