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Supreme Court Says Search With Drug Dog Was Legal

Publication Date: 
December 27, 2013
Associated Press
Dave Kolpack

Professor Jeffrey Fisher comments on a Supreme Court ruling regarding illegal searches and seizures for The Associated Press.

The North Dakota Supreme Court says marijuana and other drug paraphernalia that police found inside a Fargo apartment using a drug-sniffing dog should be allowed as evidence — a ruling made in wake of complaints from defense attorneys who say such searches are not fair to people who don't own their homes.

Lawyers for the state had appealed the ruling by East Central District Judge Wickham Corwin, who said police who entered the apartment when someone opened a locked main entrance should have obtained a search warrant before conducting the sweep. Matthew Nguyen, 19, was arrested and charged with possession of marijuana with intent to deliver and possession of drug paraphernalia.


Jeffrey Fisher, a professor at Stanford Law School and co-director of the school's Supreme Court Litigation Clinic, said the North Dakota ruling "gives a very narrow interpretation" to the U.S. Supreme Court's recent recognition of privacy in the home.

"Under the North Dakota court's view, if a person has the economic means to have a single-family house, then she is entitled to privacy against intrusive dog sniffs," Fisher told The Associated Press. "But if someone lives instead in an apartment, they have no such right. Such economic distinctions in the law are troubling."


The justices said that "unlike the area immediately surrounding a home, a party does not have a legitimate expectation of privacy in the common hallways and spaces" of an apartment building.

Said Fisher, "I doubt this is the last word on the issue."