Idaho Supreme Court Rules Drug Dog Trespassed After Putting Its Paws on Car

© AP Photo / Danny JohnstonA Little Rock police officer (File)
A Little Rock police officer (File) - Sputnik International, 1920, 24.03.2023
Good dog: sit, stay, roll over - now don’t conduct an illegal drug search.
The Idaho Supreme Court recently annulled a 2019 conviction for felony drug possession and delivery after ruling that a police dog trespassed and conducted an illegal drug search after the canine put its paws on the driver’s side of the vehicle multiple times.
Three judges agreed with the decision, while two dissented.
Kirby Dorff, who is from Idaho's Mountain Home, was pulled over after he drove across three lanes of traffic without using a signal. Dorff later told police he did not have a valid driver’s license when stopped. A second officer arrived on the scene with a K-9 dog named Nero, who began to sniff the car, according to the decision.
Nero placed his paws on the passenger side of the car twice, and then placed his paws on the driver side door. The dog then alerted police prompting them to search Dorff’s car upon which they found paraphernalia with residue of methamphetamine. Police then arrested and charged Dorff, after which they obtained a search warrant for his motel room, where they found 19 grams of methamphetamine and other paraphernalia.
However, in court, Dorff argued that Nero trespassed his vehicle with the purpose of obtaining information which is illegal under the Fourth Amendment.
“A ‘search’ occurs when a drug dog trespasses against the exterior of a vehicle during a ‘free air’ sniff if its physical contact with the vehicle amounts to ‘intermeddling’ at common law,” the decision reads.
“In this case, a drug dog intermeddled with Dorff’s vehicle when it jumped onto the driver side door and window, planted two of its paws, and sniffed the vehicle’s upper seams. Accordingly, law enforcement conducted a warrantless and two unlawful ‘search’ of Dorff’s vehicle by way of its drug dog.”
Had Nero sniffed the air and not placed his paws on Dorff’s car, it would not have been trespassing, as air is not private property.
Dorff pleaded guilty to the charges on the condition that he could appeal the denial of his motion to suppress evidence. He then appealed the case in June 2020 to the Idaho Supreme Court. Dorff’s case will now go back to a district court (where the motion to suppress evidence was first denied) with the motion to suppress evidence now in place.
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