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Law School Case Brief

People v. Burns - 2015 IL App (4th) 140006, 389 Ill. Dec. 218, 25 N.E.3d 1244

Rule:

There is an implicit invitation for a visitor to approach the home by the front path, knock promptly, wait briefly to be received, and then (absent invitation to linger longer) leave. There is no customary invitation for someone—including a police officer—to march his bloodhound up to someone's home to engage in canine forensic investigation and use a drug-detection dog to explore the area around the home in hopes of discovering incriminating evidence. Nor is there an implicit invitation for a visitor to come to the front door in the middle of the night.

Facts:

Two police officers from the Urbana police department entered the locked apartment building in which defendant, Taron R. Burns, lives. They did not have a search warrant and were accompanied by Hunter, a trained drug-detection dog. After sniffing the front door to apartment No. 10, Hunter alerted to the presence of narcotics. Based on the drug sniff, the police obtained a search warrant and searched Burns’ apartment. State charged Burns with unlawful possession with intent to deliver more than 500 grams but not more than 2,000 grams of cannabis. Burns filed a motion to suppress evidence discovered in the search. She argued the warrantless dog sniff of her apartment's front door violated the Fourth Amendment. The trial court issued a written order granting Burns’ motion to suppress. The State appealed the decision, arguing that the trial court erred in granting Burns’ motion to suppress because the police did not invade upon the curtilage to her residence and she did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the common areas of her apartment building. 

Issue:

Was the uninvited sniffing of the front door of defendant's apartment by the police, which later resulted to the issuance of a search warrant based on the sniffing, a violation of the Fourth Amendment?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The state appellate court held that the trial court properly granted Burns’ motion to suppress evidence under U.S. Const. amend. IV because the police not only approached Burns’ front door with a drug-detection dog to engage in an investigation of her home, they did so in the middle of the night; there was no implicit invitation for the police to do that. The Court added that the good faith exception to the exclusionary rule under U.S. Const. amend. IV did not apply because the warrantless use of the drug detection dog to sniff defendant's apartment door at 3:20 a.m. affected the judge's decision to issue the search warrant, and the evidence obtained pursuant to the search warrant was fruit of the poisonous tree. The Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court.

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