People v. Devone: New York Offers Drivers More Protection from Warrantless Canine-Sniff Searches . . . or Does It?

Brady Begeal, Topics Chair, Albany Government Law Review Member

Introduction

The United States Supreme Court directly addressed the constitutionality of using drug-sniffing canines for the first time in 1983, holding that a “search” under the Fourth Amendment had not taken place when police used a canine to sniff a person’s luggage at an airport.[1] The Court revisited the issue in 2005, unanimously concluding again that a police officer’s use of a canine to sniff the exterior of a driver’s vehicle to locate hidden narcotics did not constitute a “search” within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment.[2] The result of these decisions is that under federal law police generally do not need any level of suspicion to use canines to sniff for drugs.  However, the New York Court of Appeals, through its continued commitment to provide greater state constitutional protection from unreasonable searches, has decided to the contrary.  In People v. Devone, the Court of Appeals decided “whether a canine sniff of the exterior of a lawfully stopped vehicle constitutes a search under article I, § 12 of our State Constitution and, if so, what level of suspicion is required before law enforcement can conduct that search.”[3] In a 4-3 decision, the Court found that a canine sniff does amount to a “search”, thus triggering the protection of the state constitution.[4] Despite this, the Court held that a “reasonable suspicion” is not required, but instead, police need only a “founded suspicion that criminal activity is afoot” before such a search can take place.[5]

Continue reading “People v. Devone: New York Offers Drivers More Protection from Warrantless Canine-Sniff Searches . . . or Does It?”

Your Subject Doesn’t Matter: Subject Matter Jurisdiction and the Human Rights Law in Hoffman v. Parade Publications

Lisa Alexander, Public Relations Chair, Albany Government Law Review Member

Introduction

Mr. Howard Hoffman said he was fired because of his age.  The New York Court of Appeals essentially said too bad.  In a 4-3 decision, the court held that since Mr. Hoffman was “neither a resident of, nor employed in, the City or State of New York . . . .  [and did not] state a claim that the alleged discriminatory conduct had any impact in either of those locations” he was not covered by the Human Rights Laws and thus his claim was properly dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.[1] Though the majority strenuously argued that non-residents who are unable to show that a discriminatory act had an impact in New York are prevented from bringing claims under the Human Rights Laws, this conclusion is contrary to precedent and public policy.

The New York City and State Human Rights Laws

At issue in Hoffman was the scope of the protection granted by the New York City and State Human Rights laws.  The stated purpose of the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL) is to

assure that every individual within [New York] is afforded an equal opportunity to enjoy a full and productive life and that the failure to provide such equal opportunity . . . not only threatens the rights and proper privileges of its inhabitants but . . . threatens the peace, order, health, safety and general welfare of the state and its inhabitants.[2]

Continue reading “Your Subject Doesn’t Matter: Subject Matter Jurisdiction and the Human Rights Law in Hoffman v. Parade Publications”