U. S. Court Rules No More Dog Sniffs at Door to Establish PC

The United States Supreme Court issued its opinion in Florida v. Jardines on March 27, 2013, holding that a dog sniff at the front door of a house where the police suspected drugs where being grown constitutes a search for purposes of the Fourth Amendment.

On occasion if law enforcement does not have sufficient probable cause for a search warrant they will employ a drug detection dog to determine if the dog alerts to the presence of narcotics from outside the door of the suspect’s residence. What the Jardine case states, is that the use of a dog constitutes a “search” under the Fourth Amendment. Although I have had not time to read the 5:4 decision completely to determine it’s impact on other cases where dogs are used to establish probable cause for searches, such as automobiles, this decision seems to say that a dog alert alone will not be sufficient probable cause standing alone to support a search warrant.

In the early 1990s, I had a major federal drug conspiracy trial in the Pensacola Division of the Norther Federal District Court where officers used a dog sniff from outside my clients apartment door to establish probable cause for the issuance of a search warrant when executed revealed the presense of a large quantity of cocaine.

I will up date this post further once I have had time to read the Jardines opinion to determine what if any impact it may have on other dog sniff search and seizure cases under the Fourth Amendment. The US Supreme Court recently reversed Florida’s supreme court in Florida v. Harris which placed the burden on the prosecution to show the false alert and other training and credentialing of a cannine in the context of the search of an automobile. As citizens of the State of Florida and as U.S. citizens we have a greater expectation of privacy in our homes than in our cars. (See previous blog posts for this issue).

The Florida Supreme Court’s case that was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court on March 27, 2013 was State v. Jardines, 73 So. 3rd 74 (Fla. 2011), which ruled that the dog sniff at a private residence was an unlawful intrusion into the Fourth Amendment rights of a citizen to be free of unlawful searches and seizures in their home. The State case is very lengthy and describes in detail the distinctions between different types of issues involving canine searches.