Motel alcove not curtilage and therefore K9 sniff was not a Fourth Amendment search requiring a warrant.
Rock Island police officer Muehler received information that the defendant was selling narcotics from a motel room. The defendant had an extensive criminal record, including arrests for the manufacture and delivery of controlled substances. Another officer contacted the defendant, who stated that he had narcotics for sale and agreed to meet. Muehler surveilled the motel and observed the defendant drive away. Muehler knew that the defendant had a suspended driver’s license. Another officer stopped the defendant, who was arrested and signed a waiver of rights form. The motel’s staff stated that the defendant was staying in Room 130. Deputy Pena and his K-9 partner, Rio, went to the motel. Rio conducted a “free air sniff” in the alcove outside Room 130 and alerted to the odor of narcotics “within inches of the door.” Muehler obtained a search warrant. Inside the room, police found heroin and related items. The defendant admitted that the heroin was his. After the denial of his motion to suppress, the defendant was convicted. The appellate court reversed. The Illinois Supreme Court reinstated the conviction. The government can violate the Fourth Amendment either by a warrantless intrusion onto a person’s property or by a warrantless infringement of a person’s societally recognized privacy (the two types of Fourth Amendment searches). Even if the defendant’s motel room was his home, the alcove outside it was not curtilage as it was not put to personal use by the defendant. He had no ownership or possession of the alcove, only a license to use it. Furthermore, the defendant had no reasonable expectation of privacy in the alcove.
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