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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. Indiana's seatbelt law is not punishable as a crime. It is an infraction. Apparently some of our Circuit judges have deemed settled law inapplicable if it fails to fit their litmus test of political correctness. Extrapolating to redefine terms of behavior in a violation of immigration law to the entire body of criminal law leaves a smorgasbord of opportunity for judicial mischief.

  2. I wonder if $10 diversions for failure to wear seat belts are considered moral turpitude in federal immigration law like they are under Indiana law? Anyone know?

  3. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

  4. Justice has finally been served. So glad that Dr. Ley can finally sleep peacefully at night knowing the truth has finally come to the surface.

  5. While this right is guaranteed by our Constitution, it has in recent years been hampered by insurance companies, i.e.; the practice of the plaintiff's own insurance company intervening in an action and filing a lien against any proceeds paid to their insured. In essence, causing an additional financial hurdle for a plaintiff to overcome at trial in terms of overall award. In a very real sense an injured party in exercise of their right to trial by jury may be the only party in a cause that would end up with zero compensation.

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