On October 5, 2021, the Idaho Supreme Court released two new decisions that limit the use of K-9 drug dogs at traffic stops. The cases are State v. Howard and State v. Randall.
The Howard case involved a police drug-sniffing dog that momentarily put its nose through an open window during an exterior sniff of a car. The Court held that the warrantless intrusion of the dog into the physical space of the car constituted a trespass, and therefore, an unlawful search under the Fourth Amendment case law of the Supreme Court of the United States. Because the record did not show that the officers on the scene had objective facts supporting probable cause before the dog stuck its nose through the open window, the Court held that the officer’s search of the vehicle was illegal.
In the Randall case, a K-9 drug dog leaped into a car through an open window during what was supposed to have been an exterior sniff. The K-9 then alerted, and officers found 65 pounds of marijuana. Previously, Idaho Courts had held that such a leap into an open window into a vehicle is permissible if the dog was acting “instinctually” in a search for drugs. The Idaho Supreme overruled that line of cases and held in Randall, just as it did in Howard, that a warrantless intrusion into a vehicle by a drug dog is a trespass, and therefore illegal.
Because the dogs trespassed into the vehicles without a warrant, the evidence in both cases was suppressed, and all the charges were dismissed.