MN court: Dog drug-sniffing outside apartment is ‘unreasonable search’

The Minnesota Court of Appeals today threw out the conviction of a Brooklyn Park man, arrested on drug charges, because police violated his right to privacy when using a drug-sniffing dog to sniff outside his apartment door.

Cortney John Edstrom, a felon, was suspected of being a meth dealer when police, acting on a tip, used the dog to determine there were drugs inside Edstrom’s apartment, then persuaded a judge to issue a warrant for a search of Edstrom’s apartment, in which they found 227 grams of methamphetamine, multiple firearms, shotgun shells and rounds, and several digital scales with methamphetamine residue.

Police had entered the building using a lockbox key available to law enforcement.

Edstrom was found not guilty of charges of being a meth dealer, but was convicted of firearms violations and possession of a controlled substance. Today’s decision throws out the convictions and the evidence used to obtain them.

“The Fourth Amendment protects persons from the warrantless use of sense-enhancing technology that is not in general public use to obtain ‘any information regarding the interior of the home that could not otherwise have been obtained without physical intrusion into a constitutionally protected area,’” Judge Roger Klaphake wrote on behalf of the three-judge panel.

Klaphake said the Fourth Amendment would be of little use to apartment dwellers if the court ruled the use of a narcotics-detecting dog does not constitute a search.