The Supreme court was scheduled to hear arguments on April 6, to determine the legal domain of drug-sniffing dogs. Dennis Kono from Berlin, Connecticut was arrested in 2012 after a police dog was deployed to his condo hallway without a warrant. The dog smelled marijuana coming from the door. Police, after obtaining a warrant retroactively, found several plants, seeds, growing equipment, and multiple firearms. When Kono went to trial, the case was dismissed. The sniffing of the dog outside Kono’s door was ruled unconstitutional and violated his expectation of privacy inside his dwelling, saying that the search warrant to his condo should never have been approved at all.
Following the dismissal of the case the state prosecutors appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court, citing the common area hallway is used by other residents and there is no expectation of privacy. This puts many american’s rights at risk and could cause discrimination of the poor who cannot afford a house. Those who live in free-standing houses are immune from random drug-sniffing dogs under a 2013 SCOTUS ruling, which states that police cannot allow dogs to sniff for drugs right outside the house or on the porch without a warrant.
Kono’s attorney, Daniel Erwin, wrote this on the subject:
“This implicates issues of class and equality. Instituting, effectively, one rule for the suburbs and one rule for the inner city would do harm to the class neutral aspirations of our criminal procedure.”
In 1985 the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan prohibited police dogs to sniff near apartments, cited Erwin as well. In the 1961 case of Silverman v. United States the court found that at the Amendment’s ‘very core’ stands ‘the right of a man to retreat into his own home and there be free from unreasonable governmental intrusion.’
Common hallways have no privacy expectation, says Prosecutor Mitchell Brody, especially after Kono’s condo building owners gave permission to the police to search the hallways. An anonymous tipster showed himself and told police that Kono was growing pot in his building and bragging about it. Smells coming from a neighbor’s doorway can definitely violate someone’s senses and settle in the common hallway, subjecting all of the occupants to it. The American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut’s legal director, Dan Barrett, says he is shocked to hear the state wants to expand warrantless searches. They “should require a search warrant” Barrett says.
Although they did hear arguments, the Court did not release a ruling on the 6th.