Law enforcement officials got a tip in 2015 that a Minnesota man was dealing meth out of his apartment in the suburbs north of Minneapolis. The police brought a drug-sniffing dog to his front door. Without entering, the dog alerted police that there were drugs inside. The officers then got a warrant and arrested the occupant for possession of drugs and a weapon.
A man’s apartment is not his castle
The Fourth Amendment protects an occupant’s home, but the Minnesota Supreme Court recently ruled (3-2) that the apartment hallway does not constitute his home, even if the dog sniffed at a crack under the front door. Conversely, if the dog and police were on a porch of a house, the dog’s notification would not have been admissible.
The police had reasonable cause and were lawfully present in the hallway with the apartment owner’s knowledge. The ruling of a non-search hinged on the fact that police used a dog, which does not know the difference between legal and illegal activity on the other side of the door. The dog simply smells and detects activities. Moreover, this act does not overstep an expectation of privacy regarded as reasonable.
Appealed to the state Supreme Court
It is important for those charged with a crime to hire a defense attorney willing to fight in cases that are not cut and dried. This case was closely contested each step of the way and represents an effective legal system where it was not the defense’s day. Nevertheless, strong legal representation ensured that this individual’s rights were considered in the ruling.