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Drug Sniffing Dog in Motel or Apartment Hallway

Today’s question is: May officers run a drug dog in apartment or motel hallways?  And the answer is “yes” and “no.”  Officers can run a drug canine in a motel or hotel hallway, but they cannot run the same dog in an apartment hallway.

Let me explain to you why.  Now, first of all, when we are talking about areas outside of the front door, around a home, motel, or apartment, those areas are classified under one of three categories.

First; curtilage.  Curtilage is protected, like the home itself.  And these are areas intimately associated with domestic life; playing with the kids, barbecues, hanging out on lawn chairs, and so forth.

Second; areas where there’s a reasonable expectation of privacy.

Third; open fields.

So we have curtilage, reasonable expectation of privacy, and open fields.

Now let’s start with motels.  Motels don’t have curtilage.  Curtilage is more associated with non-traditional homes, like a tent.  But there are areas where the occupants have an exclusive right of control.

If you think about most motels, they cannot exclude anybody from from the hallways.  This is why it is not curtilage.  Let’s go on to reasonable expectation of privacy.  Hallways in a motel also are not protected under a reasonable expectation of privacy tests.  The main reason is that society does not think it’s reasonable.

For a motel’s occupants to have such a high expectation of privacy, that it would be unreasonable for officers with canines to be in those hallways, it’s just not that type of environment.  And if you think about it, that makes sense.

Motels are certainly like a home inside the motel room when the person is lawfully occupying it.  But there are real world consequences and limitations.  For example, people can be immediately evicted if they violate a rule, like smoking and fighting and partying and breaking stuff.  That’s not true with a home.  Also, a motel is a commercial establishment.  So really, hallways are the third category, open fields.

Let’s move on to apartments.  Apartment hallways are not curtilage.  Generally speaking, there is no right of exclusive control, or occupancy, over that hallway.  Other people can access it and they can invite the public in.  So it’s not curtilage.  There may be an area in an apartment that is exclusive to one resident, but generally speaking hallways are not.

But hallways are often considered areas where a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy.  Most courts find that the apartment dweller wants to have a higher level of privacy in these areas.

Why should the apartment dweller have a lesser expectation of privacy than for the traditional home with the white picket fence?  The cops could bring the drug sniffing dog onto their property up to the front door, because again, hallways are not exclusive.  They’re not like the front door with a white picket fence.  But there is a proper balance.

It’s not the fact that the officers are there, but the bringing of the drug dog tips of scales where the courts find it intrusive.  That’s your answer.  That would not be an area that would be considered an open field.  I hope this helps.

It’s actually a kind of very complicated legal issue.  But it’s a great question and I’m hoping I answered for you.  You can run the drug dog in the motel hallway.  There are court cases on this that support that.  If you want that court case, email me.

I also have a court case that says that running the drug dog in an apartment hallway is not permitted because of the reasonable expectation of privacy.  If you want to see that court case, email me directly at Anthony at Blue to Until next time, stay safe.


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