In The News

In The News

Monday, December 31, 2012

Michigan Court Of Appeals Says Drug Dog Sniffing On Your Porch Is Not A Search

By Michael Nichols
Categories: Drug Crimes

 The Michigan Court of Appeals recently issued an opinion involving drug dogs and the fourth amendment.  The case, People v Lee, started off with a citizen tip that there was drug trafficking activity and a strong odor of marihuana coming from a particular building. The local police department then set up surveillance and noticed high intensity light emitting from some of the buildings windows.  The police officers then decided to approach the building with a drug dog.  The dog conducted a narcotics sniff at the front door of the building and alerted to the presence of drugs inside.    A search warrant affidavit was completed and a search warrant was issued allowing the officers to search the building.

The Defendant, Richard Lee, filed a motion to suppress evidence claiming that the drug dog conducted a constitutionally improper search when the dog sniffed his front door.  The trial court granted his motion to suppress because it decided that a drug dog may only sniff a residence if there is first probable cause to do so.  In this case according to the trial court there was not probable cause of illegal activity when the sniff occurred. The Prosecuting attorney appealed the decision to the court of appeals. 

The court of appeals reversed the trial court and stated that a 2008 case, People v Jones, had already determined that a dog sniffing a residence from the outside is not a search and is not constrained by the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.  The reasoning in People v Jones was that a drug dog sniff only “reveals evidence of contraband” and that citizens do not have a legitimate expectation of privacy in contraband. 

In his appeal brief the Mr. Lee argued that a Florida supreme court case, People v Jardines had ruled otherwise and that the Michigan court of appeals should reverse People v Jones.  The court of appeals didn’t agree and stated that People v Jones is still good law and that the Florida decision was not binding authority in Michigan courts. 

“It is disappointing to me that the court of appeals did not disagree with People V Jones. Jones was decided before the MMMA was enacted and I think it is time that the Michigan Courts recognize that the MMMA provides for a legitimate purpose for possessing marihuana.  Although it may technically still be illegal, I still believe that patients should have a legitimate expectation of privacy in the medicines they take.”  If you are facing criminal charges involving a drug dog or a search of your residence call the Nichols Law Firm and discuss your case with attorneys who stay up to date on search and seizure issues.  Call the Nichols Law Firm today at 517-432-9000.    

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Peer Recognition

Mike Nichols is a national leader in drunk driving defense. He is a member of the Forensic Committee and Michigan delegate to the National College for DUI Defense. He is also a Sustaining Member of the College. Nichols is also a founding member of the Michigan Association of OWI Attorneys; a member of the American Chemical Society; an associate member of he American Academy of Forensic Science, Adjunct Professor of Forensic Evidence in Criminal Law and OWI Law and Practice at Cooley Law School. He is also author of the West OWI Practice book and several chapters in other books on science and the law.

Mike Nichols is recognized by his peers in Michigan as a “SuperLawyer” in DUI/Criminal Defense. Nichols has also been asked to speak at conferences by groups such as the NCDD; Various Bar Associations in other states.