Question: Can The Police Bring A Drug Sniffing Dog To Your Front Door Without Probable Cause?
Answer: Yes, since individuals do not harbor an expectation of privacy on a front porch where salesmen, neighbors, visitors, or religious proselytizers may appear at any time.
An undercover officer purchased marijuana and cocaine from Cortez. After the purchase, Cortez stated that another individual would deliver the cocaine to the carwash. At some point, a Dodge Caravan arrived, and Cortez entered the van. He emerged and handed the officer cocaine. On August 31, the undercover officer again arranged to purchase cocaine from Cortez. The same maroon truck was at the car wash during this transaction, and the officer again believed that the cocaine had been provided by the person in the truck. Officers followed the truck to Perez’s residence. The blue Dodge minivan that was used in the controlled buy was seen at Perez’s residence, and a records search revealed that Perez owned the residence. The next day, the undercover officer again purchased cocaine from Cortez at the car wash. The officer asked Cortez if he could obtain an additional 1.5 ounces of cocaine. Cortez told the officer that he could obtain the cocaine within an hour. Cortez remained at the car wash. At some point, a white Ford truck registered to Perez arrived. After Perez’s truck left, Cortez contacted the undercover officer and informed him that he had the cocaine and arranged to meet. The officers then followed Cortez, stopped his vehicle, and seized 1.5 ounces of cocaine. After arresting Cortez, the police officers went to Perez’s residence. Perez answered the door and stepped out onto the porch to speak with the officers. Perez had locked the door behind him as he stepped onto the porch. The officers explained to Perez that a white truck registered to him had been used to deliver cocaine earlier that day. They told Perez that he was going to obtain a search warrant for the residence. When Perez’s wife opened the door, Perez started screaming at her in Spanish and moved toward the officers at the door of his residence. The officers told Perez to stop and back up. The police officers did not touch Perez, but he approached them and started to “chest bump” the officers. Perez was arrested.
Next, a canine conducted a “sniff” of Perez’s front door. The front door was closed at the time, and the canine alerted to the presence of illegal narcotics. Perez’s wife informed the officers that several vehicles were parked in the garage, including a white truck. The police then secured a search warrant for Perez’s house and discovered cocaine. The State charged Perez with dealing in cocaine. Thereafter, Perez filed a motion to suppress, alleging that “all evidence seized … or obtained by law enforcement authorities as a result of said unreasonable detention and subsequent search of his person and home should be suppressed as a result of the violation of his Constitutional rights under the 4th Amendment to the United States Constitution and under Article I, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution, and pursuant to the ‘Fruit of the Poisonous Tree’ doctrine as announced by the United States Supreme Court.” The Court denied Perez’s motion to suppress. The trial court determined, among other things, it was determined that because the police officers were lawfully on the premises, it was lawful for the dog to sniff the residence. Thus, based on the results of that sniff, it was reasonable for the police officers to obtain a search warrant for Perez’s house and search it.
On Appeal, the court noted that an officer took the drug detection canine to Perez’s front door to sniff. Although the front door was closed, the canine alerted to the presence of illegal narcotics at the door. Even though Perez claims that the police officers’ actions of bringing the canine on the premises were illegal, we have determined that an individual does not harbor an expectation of privacy on a front porch where salesmen, neighbors, visitors, or religious proselytizers may appear at any time. In other words, as long as an officer is lawfully on the premises, the officer may have a dog sniff the residence without implicating the Fourth Amendment. Also, a dog sniff alone can provide probable cause for the issuance of a search warrant. As a result, the canine’s sniff at the closed front door of Perez’s residence was not an illegal search, and his alert to the presence of narcotics alone was sufficient to provide probable cause for the warrant to search Perez’s residence. 81 N.E.2d 1242