LIFE SENTENCE REVERSED ON DRUG TRAFFICKING APPEAL
Court of Criminal Appeals holds drug dog sniff violates 4th Amendment
Recent Court of Criminal Appeals decision reversed Bradford Ladner’s client’s life sentence for drug trafficking, holding the trial court made the wrong ruling when it denied a motion to suppress evidence from a search warrant. Officers of the Mobile Police Department used a drug sniffing dog to sniff around the outside of apartment doors in an apartment complex. After the dog alerted on the client’s door, the officers got a search warrant and searched the apartment. The client was charged with trafficking marijuana. Client’s trial attorney filed a motion to suppress the evidence, but the trial court denied the motion. Bradford Ladner took up the case on appeal, and appealed the decision on the motion to suppress to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals. Bradford Ladner argued that the dog sniff violated the 4th Amendment based on the most recent United States Supreme Court cases on the use of drug sniffing dogs.
The Court of Criminal Appeals agreed, and reversed the trial court’s decision to deny the motion to suppress, holding:
An officer who does not have a license to enter the curtilage of an apartment may not circumvent the Fourth Amendment by using a drug-sniffing dog to go into an area where he himself cannot lawfully go. … Because Cpl. McKean allowed Oscar to sniff in an area where he did not have a license to enter, Oscar’s alert on the door of apartment 206 could not provide probable cause to support a search warrant of that apartment.
The Court of Criminal Appeals went on to hold that since the information about the positive dog sniff was illegally obtained, it could not be used to get the search warrant, and without that information, there was not sufficient information to find probable cause to issue the search warrant. The Court held:
Because the affidavit lacked sufficient probable cause to support the issuance of a search warrant for apartment 206, the circuit court should have granted Earl’s motion to suppress the evidence found in apartment 206. We therefore reverse the judgment of the circuit court and remand this case for further proceedings.
Read the full opinion in Ezingim Demetrius Earl v. State of Alabama
Many times an appeal is required to get the right result in a case. All is not lost when your case goes against you at the trial court level. William “Chip” Bradford and Amber Ladner have successfully obtained reversals of criminal convictions for our clients in many cases. If you have a case that requires an appeal, call us today. We have offices in Mobile and Birmingham, and service the entire State of Alabama.