WASHINGTON The Supreme Court on Monday 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 is lawfully stopped for a
traffic violation. Justices David H. Souter and Ruth Bader Ginsburg
dissented in that ruling, cautioning it could lead to much more
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
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.
The case is Smith v. Texas, 04-874.