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Police allowed to use drug dogs to sniff outside your homes front door?

Posted by Eric Olson | Jan 05, 2018 | 0 Comments

Application of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 10 of the Minnesota Constitution is an area of law that is constantly in flux as appeals are brought and courts rule on cases. A related question involves when and where police are allowed to use drug detection dogs. You may have seen officers with their dogs walking through airports, bus stations, schools, or the outside of cars that are pulled over. While there are many places that police are permitted to use their drug detection dogs, the Minnesota Supreme Court will try to determine what the limits are on police use of drug detection dogs. 

The case is State of Minnesota v. Cortney John Edstrom and could have a major impact on law enforcement's use of drug detection dogs and the privacy rights of ordinary citizens. In the case, an informant told police that Edstrom was selling methamphetamine from a third floor apartment in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota. It was a secure apartment building, meaning that those who did not live there did not have access to the building. Officers went to the building and searched the third floor hallway with a drug detection dog. The dog alerted to the presence of narcotics at one door. Based on the informant's information and the dog's alert, officers applied for a search warrant. They searched the apartment and found methamphetamine, scales, firearms, and ammunition. Edstrom was charged with various offenses and he moved to suppress the evidence, arguing that the dog search violated his Fourth Amendment Rights. The District court denied the suppression motion on the grounds that the use of a drug detection dog at the door of an apartment inside a secure building was not a search. 

Edstrom appealed to the Court of Appeals, again arguing that his Fourth Amendment rights were violated by the dog search of his apartment building. The Court of Appeals held that the use of the drug dog was a search and a warrant or exception to the warrant requirement was necessary. Because the officers did not have a warrant or exception to the warrant requirement, the Court of Appeals held that the dog's alert must be suppressed and because it was essential to probable cause to obtain a warrant, the evidence obtained must be suppressed. 

The State has appealed the Court of Appeals' decision and the Minnesota Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case. It is unclear how the Supreme Court will decide the case. They could agree with the Court of Appeals and effectively create a rule that officers must obtain a warrant to bring drug detection dogs into secured apartment buildings. They could also adopt the reasoning of the District court and hold that no search occurred because officers remained outside the apartment with the dog prior to obtaining a search warrant. Either way, the Supreme Court's ruling is sure to have an impact on how police use drug detection dogs, as well as the privacy rights enjoyed by ordinary citizens. 

If you have been subjected to a search and are facing criminal charges, you need experienced criminal defense counsel that can help to protect your rights. The attorneys of Olson Defense have over 20 years of experience fighting to protect their client's rights. Contact us today for a free consultation. 24/7 at 952-835-1088.

About the Author

Eric Olson

Eric J. Olson has dedicated his career exclusively to criminal law, with a focus onDWI defense. For the past 16 years, Mr. Olson has developed a reputation in the legal community as an aggressive, compassionate advocate for his clients.

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