Saturday, March 30, 2013

Supreme Court Says a Dog’s Sniff Can Be a Fourth Amendment Intrusion

May 28, 2013

If you’ve ever worried about whether the U.S. Constitution protects you from a dog’s nose, there’s no need to fret: even a canine cop needs a warrant to sniff your front porch.

The Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision on Tuesday that a police drug-sniffing dog picking up a scent outside of your home still constitutes a search for which law enforcement would have to obtain a warrant. The ruling may limit how police use animals‘ sensitive noses to detect illicit substances on private property.

The justices made their decision after hearing arguments in Florida v. Jardines, in which Franky, a Miami-Dade police dog, searched for marijuana in the home of Joelis Jardines. Jardines’ front door was closed and no search warrant had been issued. But when the chocolate labrador got a good enough whiff, he sat down at the front door, indicating that he smelled pot. Police felt that was good enough to obtain a warrant, and they arrested Jardines with more than $700,000 worth of marijuana.

In his trial, Jardines’s attorney argued that Franky’s sniff was an unreasonable search without probable cause under the Fourth Amendment, which made the search warrant invalid. Jardines’ motion was successful, but a Florida appellate court disagreed, saying that the sniff wasn’t an unconstitutional search.

But Jardines lawyers would not relent, arguing that because Franky smelled the plants outside the house, it was a violation of the Fourth Amendment protection. The case bounced between courts for years before landing in Florida’s Supreme Court, which eventually took Jardine’s side and ruled that the sniff was an “unreasonable government intrusion into the sanctity of the home.”


Read the decision