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The government's use of a trained police dog to investigate a home and its immediate surroundings is a search under the Fourth Amendment. A defendant has an expectation of privacy in his porch, which is part of the home's curtilage and enjoys protection as part of the home itself. This is because the curtilage is intimately linked to the home, both physically and psychologically, and is where privacy expectations are most heightened. When the police physically intruded onto a defendant's property to gather evidence without a warrant or consent, they conduct a search without a license to do so, in violation of the Fourth Amendment.
Acting on information that drugs were being sold from a certain apartment in Madison, Wisconsin, law enforcement obtained the permission of the apartment property manager and brought a narcotics-detecting dog to the locked, shared hallway of the apartment building. The dog alerted to the presence of drugs at a nearby apartment door and then went to the targeted apartment where defendant was residing. After the officers obtained a search warrant, defendant was arrested and charged with drug and firearm crimes based on evidence found in the apartment. At the time of his arrest, defendant was serving a term of supervised release in Case No. 07-cr-123, a conviction for being a felon in possession of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). After the district court denied his pretrial motions challenging the search and the dog's reliability, defendant entered a conditional guilty plea that pre-served his right to appeal the district court's ruling. On appeal, defendant alleged that the use of the dog was a search under the Fourth Amendment and Florida v. Jardines, 569 U.S. 1, 133 S. Ct. 1409, 185 L. Ed. 2d 495 (2013).
The court held that the use of the drug-sniffing dog clearly invaded reasonable privacy expectations where defendant had a reasonable expectation of privacy against persons in the hallway snooping into his apartment using sensitive devices not available to the general public. Thus, the police engaged in a warrantless search within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment when they had a drug-sniffing dog come to the door of the apartment and search for the scent of illegal drugs. The court further held that the good-faith exception did not apply where no appellate decision specifically authorized the use of a super-sensitive instrument, a drug-detecting dog, by the police outside an apartment door to investigate the inside of the apartment without a warrant. The court reversed the defendant’s conviction.