What makes a house a home? And what keeps a condo free from unlawful police investigation?
The Connecticut Supreme Court is considering the latter question, thanks to a case revolving around drug-sniffing dogs and the rights of property owners and renters.
The case revolves around Dennis Kono, who was arrested in 2012 after a police dog searched a communal hallway of his apartment building and indicated drugs were present inside his condo. Police then got a warrant to enter his condo, and found several marijuana plants, seeds and firearms.
The owners of the condo complex had given police permission to search the hallway, but Kono’s lawyers argue the cops should have gotten a warrant to search outside his door, saying the search violated his Fourth Amendment right to privacy. They say his charges should be thrown out—citing a 2013 US Supreme Court ruling that protects people in free-standing houses from similar searches.
Apart from the fact that drug-sniffing dogs are often inaccurate, the question now before the court is whether renters who share communal spaces have the same protections as homeowners—something Kono’s lawyers say is critical to protect minorities and poor people who more frequently live in rental properties.
The Connecticut Supreme Court has heard the case but has yet to make a ruling.