When can police bring a drug-sniffing dog to an apartment?
In a recent opinion, the Minnesota Court of Appeals clarified rules for determining whether police officers may bring a drug-sniffing dog to the door of an apartment. The basic answer is that the police must have an “articulable suspicion” based on specific facts, and those facts may be based on tips from a reliable confidential informant.
Facts of the Case
In State v. Bravo, a confidential informant reported to a police officer that he saw the defendant Bravo with several pounds of methamphetamine and multiple firearms. The confidential informant had worked with the police officer about 20 times and had provided reliable information that led to several arrests. Based on the confidential informant's tips, the police officer identified Bravo and verified where Bravo lived. The police officer brought a drug-sniffing dog to the hallway outside Bravo's apartment, and the dog alerted to the odor of narcotics. A court then granted the police officer a search warrant based on the dog's alert, and police found 222 grams of methamphetamine and several firearms in Bravo's apartment.
Bravo moved to suppress the evidence obtained during the search arguing that the police violated his right to be free from unreasonable searches when they brought the dog to sniff outside of his apartment before obtaining a search warrant. The trial court denied Bravo's motion and ruled that the evidence would not be suppressed. Bravo was ultimately convicted of first-degree drug possession.
Court of Appeals Decision
Bravo appealed the trial court's decision to the Minnesota Court of Appeals. On appeal, Bravo argued that the trial court erred in its ruling and that the dog-sniff violated his right to be free from unreasonable searches. The Minnesota Court of Appeals began its analysis by noting that a dog-sniff by a trained police dog is a search under the Minnesota Constitution and therefore police must have a “reasonable, articulable suspicion” that a person is engaged in illegal activity before conducting a dog-sniff. However, the court also noted that the “bar for this showing is not high,” and that courts will consider the “totality of the circumstances” rather than isolated facts.
In Bravo's case, the court held that the police had a good reason to bring a drug-sniffing dog to the hallway outside of Bravo's apartment because the confidential informant had given police reliable information in the past. In addition, police did not have to provide details in court about the tips the confidential informant had previously provided – a confidential informant's reliability can be established by the testimony of a police officer.
If police have used a drug-sniffing dog to search your apartment, home, vehicle, or other property, then police must show that they had a reasonable, articulable suspicion to conduct the dog-sniff in order for the state to use evidence derived from the dog-sniff against you. The experienced attorneys at Olson Defense will hold the state accountable and vigorously defend your right to be free of unreasonable searches by police and their dogs. Do not hesitate to contact Olson Defense at 952-835-1088 for a free consultation.