In a recent drug case in New York, the Court of Appeals, New York’s highest Court held that using a narcotics-detection dog to sniff a criminal suspect’s body is defined as a “search.” Before this case, New York case law was unclear about whether this specific action constituted a search, which is relevant because any “search” by a government official automatically triggers individual protections under the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment. By ruling that the narcotics-detection dog’s sniffing is a search under the law, the court opened up more defendants and suspects to important protections under this Amendment.
Facts of the Case
According to the opinion, officers on patrol saw what they believed to be a drug transaction one evening in a parking lot. The officers followed one of the individuals in his car when he left the parking lot, later stopping him for a traffic violation. The officers then requested that the suspect consent to a search of his vehicle. When the suspect declined, the officers brought out their canine to sniff for drugs both around the vehicle and on the defendant’s person.
The dog involved in the search alerted on three different occasions during the interaction. The suspect began to run away, and the officers chased him, caught him, and eventually found a plastic bag with 76 glassine envelopes of heroin. The suspect was charged with criminal possession of drugs, and he then filed a motion to suppress the evidence of the drugs.