Timing is Everything

United States v. Gutierrez | 14-1159

August 2014

Davis v. United States, 131 S. Ct. 2419 (2011) holds that evidence will not be suppressed under the Fourth Amendment if “binding appellate precedent specifically authorize[d]” the officers’ conduct at the time they acted. And United States v. Gutierrez illustrates well the results this can cause.

In Gutierrez, narcotics officers investigating a potential methamphetamine dealer showed up at his door with a drug-sniffing canine. Officers knocked on the door, and the dog positively indicated the presence of drugs. After not receiving a response, and seeing movement inside, the officers entered the residence, secured it, and obtained a search warrant based on the dog’s positive response for drugs.

Unfortunately for Mr. Gutierrez, these events occurred in November 2012, just a few months before the Supreme Court held that the use of a drug sniffing dog on a person’s front porch was a search under the Fourth Amendment. See Florida v. Jardines, 133 S.Ct. 1409 (2013). Finding that the officers’ conduct in Gutierrez was authorized by “binding appellate precedent,” the Seventh Circuit held the officers’ conduct lawful, and affirmed the conviction. The few months between the search of Gutierrez’s home and Jardines decision equated to 10 years in prison for Mr. Gutierrez.