Monday, April 4, 2005


The Supreme Court yesterday declined to consider whether police can have drug dogs sniff outside people’s homes without any specific suspicion of illegal activity.

Justices let stand a lower-court ruling that allowed the dog sniff, rejecting an appeal from a Houston man who said it was an improper police ?search? that violated his Fourth Amendment right against arbitrary searches.

In so doing, the court declined to clarify the scope of police authority after it ruled 6-2 earlier this year that dog sniffs for drugs were OK outside a car if a motorist lawfully is stopped for a traffic violation. Justices David H. Souter and Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented in that ruling, cautioning it could lead to much more intrusive searches.

David Gregory Smith challenged his Texas conviction for drug possession based on evidence obtained after a police dog sniffed outside his garage and alerted authorities to possible drugs inside. After the dog’s alert, police obtained a search warrant and found methamphetamine in his bedroom, far from the garage.

“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,” the petition states.

A Texas state court ruled last year that the dog sniff outside his garage was not intrusive enough to invoke constitutional protection. It also said police did not unlawfully trespass because the garage was along a sidewalk that visitors must walk to reach the front door.

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