Newsbrief: Supreme Court Lets Stand Ruling Allowing Drug Dog Searches Outside People's Homes 4/8/05

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On Monday, the US Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of a Houston case in which police used a drug dog to sniff outside a man's garage. The non-ruling comes on the heels of the court's January decision ratifying the use of drug dogs in traffic stops. In that ruling, dissenting justices David Souter and Ruth Bader Ginsburg warned that it could lead to more intrusive drug dog searches, and police in Houston are apparently prepared to test the limits of the law.

military drug dog in training exercise
But they won't have to. Instead, the Supreme Court let stand a federal appeals court ruling against David Gregory Smith. In that case, police sicced a drug dog on Smith's garage and when the drug dog alerted, police used the alert as the basis for a search of Smith's home. As a result, he was arrested and ultimately convicted of drug possession. Smith argued that the drug dog sniff was an improper police search that violated his Fourth Amendment rights against arbitrary searches.

"The use of a drug-sniffing dog at the entrance of a private home to detect the contents of the dwelling strips the citizenry of the most basic boundary of personal privacy by gathering invisible information coming from the interior of the home," Smith argued in his appeal.

While the US Supreme Court has upheld the use of drug dogs, confusion lingers over the permissible extent of their use. Smith argued that the correct precedent in his case was not the January highway drug dog case but a 2001 case involving the use of thermal imaging, in which the court held that a warrant was necessary. "No distinction exists between a thermal-imaging device and drug-sniffing dog in that they are both sense-enhancing and permit information regarding the interior of a home be gathered which could not otherwise be obtained without physical intrusion into a constitutionally protected area," Smith argued.

But by refusing to accept Smith's case, the Supreme Court both affirmed his conviction (and 37-year sentence for methamphetamine possession) and left unsettled the limits to drug dog searches.

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Issue #381 -- 4/8/05

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Medical Marijuana Bills Moving in the States | Hemp Legislation on the Move in the States | NORML 2005: Activists Meet and Plot in America's Marijuana Mecca | Pushing the Envelope in Oaksterdam | How Did Your US Representative Vote on Medical Marijuana Last Year? | Please Help Students Losing Financial Aid for College Because of Drug Convictions Get Their Aid Back -- Alerts Online for the House, Senate, and Arizona and Rhode Island Legislatures | Newsbrief: With Prohibition Failing, China Calls for "Peoples' War" on Drugs | Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories | Newsbrief: Supreme Court Lets Stand Ruling Allowing Drug Dog Searches Outside People's Homes | Newsbrief: State Courts in Indiana, Oregon Restrict Police Garbage Searches | Newsbrief: Iowa League of Women Voters Criticizes Drug Policy, Calls for Sentencing Reform | Newsbrief: NORML Issues Sobering Report on Prohibitionist "Drugged Driving" Offensive | Media Scan: American Enterprise Institute on US Drug Policy, New York Times on Hurwitz Case, Christopher Hallam on Afghanistan, NYPD Narcotics Against Legalization | This Week in History | The Reformer's Calendar


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