Supreme Court Could Decide if Drug-Sniffing Dogs Constitutional

A case from Florida asks the question if a police dog’s behavior outside a house gives the officers the right to get a search warrant for illegal drugs inside the home, or is a dogs sniff warrant a constitutional search?

The Florida Supreme court said that the dog’s ability to detect marijuana inside a home from the outside of a closed front door crosses a constitutional line. The Florida state attorney, Pam Bondi, is hoping that the Supreme Court of the United States will overturn that ruling.  Law experts all agree that the Highest Court in the land will, in fact, hear this very important case and make a ruling.

The case is being monitored by law enforcement agencies across the country that use dogs in the search for illegal substances. The dog in question, Franky, is now retired but is responsible for the seizure of more than 2.5 tons of marijuana – and $4.9 million dollars of drug-contaminated money. The chocolate lab spent most of his career in airports.

The US Supreme Court has heard four dog sniffing cases before – two of the previous cases involved the use of drug dogs after a traffic stop, one involved airport luggage, and the other one involved a package in transit. If they argue this case, it will be the first one that includes a dog and a private residence. Again and again, the US Supreme court has ruled that the home is entitled to greater privacy than roads or public places. The Justices ruled in 2001 that police could not use thermal imaging technology to detect marijuana grows from outside the home since the equipment could also detect lawful activity, such as intimate details about when the occupants were bathing. And it is already well established, that officers can knock on your front door, but if you refuse to open up and talk, the officers need a warrant, and to get a warrant they need evidence of a crime.

The case we will be monitoring is called Florida v. Jadines, and led to Joelis Jardines being arrested in 2006 for trafficking after police found 179 marijuana plants in his home when a drug dog marked his front door. His attorney challenged the search saying it was an unconstitutional intrusion into his home by law enforcement. The evidence (the plants) were thrown out in a lower court, then reversed by an appeals court, but then the Florida Supreme Court sided with the original judge. There is a decision conflict with Florida’s highest court since numerous previous rulings decided that a dog’s sniff does NOT a search. The interesting thing here is that unlike the thermal imaging ruling, a dog is not finding out about other legal activity.

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