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Supreme Court rules dog sniff without warrant unconstitutional

How the police find evidence against suspected drug offenders may soon change, at least when they are using drug sniffing dogs outside a suspect's house without first obtaining a warrant. The Supreme Court recently ruled that police must have a search warrant before they can use drug sniffing dogs outside a person's residence.

The ruling could have a significant impact on drug charges resulting from police using drug sniffing dogs to obtain a warrant to search a suspect's home. Under the Supreme Court ruling, law enforcement will have to have probable cause for a search warrant to use drug sniffing dogs, which will also impact if and how police are able to get another warrant to search inside a suspect's home if their dogs indicate that illegal drugs may be present.

The ruling stems back to a case where police officers seized evidence from a suspect's house after a drug sniffing dog indicated that illegal drugs may be present. The police officers did not have a search warrant to use the drug sniffing dog outside the man's house. After the police searched the man's house, he was later charged with drug trafficking with evidence found inside his house. The man's attorney said that the evidence was obtained unlawfully since the police did not have a warrant before using the drug sniffing dog, which then led to the police searching the man's home.

The Supreme Court justices voted 5-4 in favor of the defendant, saying that the Fourth Amendment protects individuals from the police being on their property and searching for evidence without probable cause. The justices said that police do not have the right to look for evidence on a person's front porch because that is essentially a person's home, and the Fourth Amendment protects citizens from unlawful search and seizure.

The ruling could impact people facing drug charges that result from police seizing evidence without obtaining a warrant first. Individuals who have been arrested or charged with a drug crime should contact a criminal defense attorney to discuss their case. Under the Supreme Court ruling, some evidence may be excluded and charges could be dropped if police have no other evidence against the suspect.

Source: WNCT, "Court: Drug dog sniff is unconstitutional search," Jesse J. Holland, March 26, 2013

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