26 March 2013

Law in Plain English: Florida v. Jardines

This is one in a series of posts designed to describe court decisions in plain English. For more detail and background on the legal issues, see the link to the case below. For similar posts, click here.

My initial discussion of both dog sniff cases is here; with an extended discussion of Jardines here.

Florida v. Jardines

Police conducted a warrantless "sniff test" with a narcotics detection dog ("Franky") at the front door to Jardines's home. Franky alerted, and police found several marijuana plants inside. Dog sniffs have traditionally not been considered searches for Fourth Amendment purposes (for example, see here, here, and here), but those cases dealt with cars or luggage, when the expectation of privacy was less. The question before the Court was whether a dog sniff at the front door of a house in which marijuana was suspected of being grown, by a trained narcotics detection dog constituted a search under the Fourth Amendment. In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the dog sniff invaded the home's curtilage. A guest might be implictitly allowed to come to a porch to knock on someone's door, but this invitation didn't extend to a trained narcotics dog. As a result, the dog sniff was considered a "search" for Fourth Amendment purposes and the seized evidence would likely be excluded. The practical impact of this decision is that police will almost certainly require warrants to use drug detection dogs when the searches are associated with homes.
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