Condominium Privacy and Crime Case Works its Way through the Courts in Connecticut
The Connecticut Supreme Court has heard but not decided a potentially precedent-setting case involving condominiums. A police dog in a condominium building hallway signaled for marijuana outside of the door of a condominium unit. The police then obtained a warrant for the unit and found marijuana plants, growing equipment, firearms, and seeds. A trial court judge dismissed the charges saying the original search in the common area hallway violated the condominium owner's constitutional rights. This decision seems consistent with an earlier United States Supreme Court decision in 2013 holding that police dogs cannot sniff for drugs in areas right outside of a private residence without a warrant. The counter-argument in this case is that the condominium hallways are common area accessible by any owner in the project.
This case represents an interesting constitutional question and a very practical question for community associations trying to take action to root out suspected crime. This issue could come up anytime there is crime in a condominium, townhome project, homeowners association, or any other type of HOA. The type of crime varies and can include drug dealers, growing operations, prostitution, and theft rings. The neighbors and unit owners frequently expect the association to take some action and association boards and management committees are often motivated to stop the illegal activity.
At Morris Sperry we have dealt with these issues for years and have good advice for association boards when they encounter this problem. These problems have to be handled in a way that complies with the law and puts a stop to the crime in the community.