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Indiana Court of Appeals: Evidence Obtained From Warrant After Dog Sniff Admissible
Posted in Litigation

In Hoop v. State, the Indiana Court of Appeals dealt with an issue of first impression and affirmed a trial court ruling that evidence obtained by officers during the execution of a search warrant resulting from a dog sniff at a private residence is admissible.

In this case, a confidential informant provided the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department with information suggesting that Hoop had a marijuana growing operation in his house.  Based on that information, a police officer took his K-9 partner to sniff at the font door of the residence.  The dog acted as though it detected a prohibited substance and, based on that, the police obtained a search warrant.  While executing the search warrant, officers found significant amounts of marijuana plants and marijuana bags.  Hoop was charged with Class D felonies for dealing and possessing marijuana.  The trial court denied Hoop's motion to suppress the evidence because it was obtained unlawfully and he brought this appeal.

On appeal, Hoop first claimed that the dog sniff of his door constituted a search under the Fourth Amendment and, therefore, the officers needed a warrant prior to taking the dog to his home.  He reasoned that his privacy interest in his home prohibited the government from showing up at his door without a warrant.  Relying on United States Supreme Court and Seventh Circuit precedent, however, the court disagreed with Hoop's argument for two reasons. 

First, while recognizing a heightened privacy interest in one's home, the court held that a person does not have a legitimate privacy interest in the possession of contraband.  Since the sniffing dog would only discover contraband, namely drugs, the dog sniff did not breach Hoop's privacy interest.  Second, the court ruled that "[a]s long as an officer is lawfully on the premises, the officer may have a dog sniff the residence without implicating the Fourth Amendment."  As the officer approached the house using the walkway that would ordinarily be used by any visitor, which the court decided prevented the walkway from being 'private' in the Fourth Amendment Sense, the warrant obtained as a result of the dog sniff is constitutional.

Hoop also claimed that the dog sniff was impermissible under Article 1, § 11 of the Indiana Constitution because it requires that officers have reasonable suspicion to conduct a dog sniff of a private residence.  To show that the State did not have reasonable suspicion, Hoop challenged the value of the information provided by the confidential informant.  The court agreed with Hoop that, in general, reasonable suspicion is needed to conduct a dog sniff of a private residence.  However, the court decided that it need not consider the reasonableness of the information received from the confidential informant in this case because the State argues that the officers relied in good faith on the warrant obtained after the dog sniff. 

Federal and Indiana law provide that a search will be deemed valid if the State can show that the officer conducting the search relied in good faith upon a properly issued warrant, even if subsequently invalidated.  Further, the court noted that the dog sniff alone would provide probable cause for a warrant.  Thus, the officers acted in reasonable reliance on the magistrate's conclusion that the dog sniff was in accordance with the law and the evidence obtained during the execution of the search warrant is admissible.

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