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Last December, this blog discussed a story where police used a trained dog to sniff a car seeking evidence of drugs during a Novato, California traffic stop. Courts generally have held that a dog-sniff outside a car is not a search within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment, and therefore police do not need to obtain a warrant before using a dog outside a car. But the United States Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that the legal analysis is different outside the front door of a home.

The issue rose to the high court on an appeal from a drug crime case out of Florida. The state high court had ruled that drugs discovered after police brought a trained drug sniffing dog to a home without a warrant were not admissible in a criminal trial against a resident of the home. Prosecutors appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In the case, police say that they had received a tip that a marijuana growing operation was going on inside the home. An investigator brought his K-9 to the home and had the dog sniff the base of the front door.

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With today's technology, constitutional issues can involve complex arguments in criminal cases. Last summer, this blog reported that the United states Supreme Court had agreed to review whether law enforcement's use of a global positioning system device without a warrant during a drug crime investigation was done in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Monday, the high court ruled unanimously that the Constitution requires law enforcement to obtain a warrant.

Although all nine justices ruled that the Constitution requires law enforcement to obtain a warrant, some questions may arise in the future from the Supreme Court ruling.

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The case did not originally arise in California. However, if the Supreme Court accepts the case for review, the court's decision will certainly affect whether or not law enforcement agencies in California, including along the Central Coast, can use drug-sniffing dogs outside a personal residence without a warrant.

The issue arose out of a Florida investigation into an alleged urban marijuana growing operation. Police say they received a tip of a possible marijuana cultivation operation inside a Miami home.

Law enforcement apparently put the home under surveillance and without obtaining a search warrant brought in a drug-sniffing dog. Law enforcement says the canine smelled along the base of the closed front door of the home, and sat down, indicating to law enforcement that the dog detected the scent of drugs.

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The issues were recently before the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco in regard to a man charged with failure to provide a DNA sample after an arrest on suspicion of arson in 2009. In January 2009, California law began requiring any person arrested for any felony to submit a DNA sample. The law requires the sample to be provided "immediately following arrest, or during the booking . . . process or as soon as administratively practicable after arrest."

The appellate court struck down the law as unconstitutional. The court says a person arrested for a felony, but has not appeared before a judge for "a judicial determination of probable cause" is more like an ordinary citizen than a prisoner.

Ordinary citizens, cloaked in the presumption of innocence, have the full expectation of privacy, free from unreasonable governmental intrusions. The court says convicted prisoners have a "limited expectation of privacy" under the Fourth Amendment.

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The high court ruled Monday in an 8 to 1 decision that the police acted lawfully under exigent circumstances. The case arose in 2005 after law enforcement conducted an undercover sting operation. A person allegedly sold crack cocaine to a police informant. The suspect reportedly entered an apartment building after the alleged sale.

Police entered the building, but were unable to determine which apartment the suspect entered. They combed the halls of the apartment building until they say they smelled the odor of marijuana coming from one of the unit.

Police pounded on the door and announced their presence loudly. They then listened at the door. Police claim they heard people moving inside the locked apartment. The police announced their intent to enter the apartment and broke down the door.

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FBI agents and police officers testified at a congressional hearing Thursday regarding increasing difficulties that law enforcement is experiencing in attempting to gather evidence against people they suspect of committing offenses. Law enforcement claims that new forms of communication inhibit their ability to conduct wiretaps.

California criminal defense attorneys know that evidence cannot be used to convict an individual if law enforcement gathers evidence in an unconstitutional manner. The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable searches and seizures. Members of law enforcement, however, told congressional leaders yesterday that many new forms of communication provide law enforcement with increased difficulty in placing wiretaps even where the wiretap is authorized under a warrant.

Speaking before a House Judiciary subcommittee, FBI general counsel Valerie Caproni said it is "exponentially more difficult" to place a court-authorized wiretap on some forms of new technology. She says people can communicate via anonymous avatars and through wireless technology that evades wiretaps.

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The California Supreme Court recently issued a ruling that allows law enforcement to search the texts and other data stored on a cell phone without a warrant after an arrest. Cell phones are becoming more and more sophisticated as technology advances. The data stored on a cell phone may be free game to law enforcement after an arrest under the ruling.

The case stems from a 2007 Ventura County arrest. Police arrested the defendant in the case on suspicion of committing a California drug crime. After arresting the man, police found a cell phone that the defendant was carrying. Roughly 90 minutes after the arrest, an officer searched through text messages stored on the cell phone and found a text message that allegedly incriminated the defendant.

The message reportedly read "6 4 80." Police alleged the message related to the sale of six ecstasy pills for $80. The man later confessed to the drug deal. The defendant challenged the admissibility of the evidence in court on the basis that the warrantless search was illegal.

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