Unreasonable searches and seizures are one of the most common reasons for a case to get thrown out of court. This type of legal challenge occurs whenever a defense attorney claims police violated their client’s rights while obtaining evidence. After years spent ignoring this subject, the Supreme Court will be looking at a search-and-seizure case that could have a major impact on future legal defenses.
Idaho Man’s Search-and-Seizure Case Goes to the Supreme Court
Typically, the Fourth Amendment prevents police officers from searching cars without probable cause. However, since the air around the car is considered public space, it’s usually legal for law enforcement to get a drug dog to sniff around for the presence of drugs. One Idaho man has chosen to contest this law in a case that’s extended all the way to the United States Supreme Court.
When Kirby Dorff was pulled over due to an improper turn, a police dog named Nero was called to examine his vehicle. Nero circled the car, jumped up on the side of the driver’s door and then alerted the officer to the scent of drugs. This led to Dorff’s arrest for the possession of methamphetamines.
Dorff’s criminal defense attorney was able to argue that the police dog touching Dorff’s car counted as trespassing, so any evidence recovered from his actions could not be used in court. However, after Idaho’s various courts could not agree on the correct interpretation of the Fourth Amendment, the case was eventually sent to the Supreme Court.
So far, it’s unknown whether the Supreme Court will actually decide this case. They have to look over the evidence, but they may choose not to formally hear the case if they believe it has no national significance.
What Legal Observers Have To Say About the Case
Even though the outcome is still unknown, this case has already sparked a lot of debate. Some believe that this case is very important. The Idaho Supreme Court points out that the case is essentially arguing over whether a police dog can behave in a way that would be illegal for a human police officer to behave. Supporters of Dorff point out that it’s unreasonable for a presumably innocent person to have to let a police dog climb all over their car.
However, others believe that the search-and-seizure case will be harder to decide. Since Nero placed only his paws on the car for a few moments, his actions could be compared to simply brushing against a vehicle. Justice Gregory Moeller says Nero’s actions do not count as a physical intrusion, so the resulting search of the car was legal and warranted.
How This Decision May Affect Other Criminal Prosecutions
If the Supreme Court chooses to hear this case and decides in Dorff’s favor, it could have a major impact on the way police handle drug searches. Right now, it’s fairly common for drug dogs to jump onto a person’s car when they’re trying to locate the source of a scent. If the Supreme Court agrees that this is a type of trespassing, drug dog handlers will need to stay farther back from the car and prevent their dogs from touching it.
This new ruling would also have the potential to affect many criminal cases handled by Morristown criminal defense lawyers. In situations where a person was arrested after a drug dog gave the police an excuse to search, they might be able to use Dorff’s argument for their own case. This could potentially help to protect people from situations where a drug dog invaded their space and then told the police to search the car.
Regardless of the outcome of this specific case, the Law Office of Gregg Wisotsky remains dedicated to protecting his clients’ Fourth Amendment rights. We help people in New Jersey with their criminal defenses. You can count on us to help you navigate the legal system and plead your case in court. To discuss your case with a Morristown criminal defense lawyer, call 973-898-0161 or fill out our contact form.