ND Supreme Court: It's legal for police to take drug-sniffing dogs into condos without warrant

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FARGO, North Dakota — The North Dakota Supreme Court says it's OK for police to bring drug-sniffing dogs into privately owned condominiums without a warrant.

The justices in an opinion posted last week rejected an appeal by Andrew Williams, a West Fargo man who was arrested for possession of marijuana with intent to deliver after police brought Disco the dog into a common hallway that Williams shared with another resident in the condo. Police say they received a tip that pot was being sold out of the residence.

A state judge in October denied defense attorney Scott Brand's motion to exclude the evidence, after Brand complained that it was an unreasonable search and seizure. The Fargo lawyer had argued that the hallway in the condo should be considered curtilage, or part of the home, and that gave Williams an expectation of privacy.

Brand said his client not only cleaned and maintained the hallway, he had personal property inside of it.

Prosecutors cited the 2013 case of Matthew Nguyen, whose arrest for dealing pot after Fargo police brought a dog into his Fargo apartment complex without a warrant was upheld by the state's highest court. Prosecutors said the officers in the Williams case thought the dwelling was an apartment building and didn't find out it was an owned condominium until afterward.

The court said in a 5-0 ruling that the common areas of a multi-family dwelling are not protected by the Constitution, and the search was legal.

"Like in Nguyen, we conclude the condominium building's common hallway was not curtilage, and Williams had no expectation that the shared space would be free from any intrusion," Justice Carol Kapsner wrote.

In the Nguyen case, officers got inside a secured apartment building when one of the residents opened the door to enter or leave. The dog hit on one of the units on the second floor and police then obtained a search warrant.

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