United States Supreme Court Rules Taking a Drug-Sniffing Dog onto a House Porch is Impermissible Search
Yesterday, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Florida v. Jardines, 569 U.S. _ (No. 11-564) (2013), that taking a drug-sniffing dog on a private person’s porch was a violation of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution as it was an impermissible search unsupported by probable cause.
In Jardines, the Miami-Dade Police Department had received a tip that marijuana was being grown in the Jardines home. The police department did nothing to verify this tip. A month passed and the police along with the Drug Enforcement Administration went to the Jardines home. A fifteen minute surveillance showed no activity. The police then took a dog trained to detect the scent of drugs onto the defendant’s land and, more specifically, his porch. The dog reacted and gave a positive response for narcotics. Based on that response, a warrant was applied for and issued. During the search, marijuana plants were recovered and Jardines was charged with trafficking in cannablis.
the defendant filed a motion to suppress the search which was granted by the trial court, reversed by the Florida appellate court, and reinstated by the Florida Supreme Court.
The United States Supreme Court agreed with the trial and Florida Supreme Court, ruling that the investigation of the Jardines home was a search within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution. The defendant’s home as well as the curtilage, the area immediately surrounding and associated with the home is part of the home for Constitutional purposes.
The Court ruled that a police officer without a warrant may approach a home and knock on the door but cannot introduce a trained forensic canine to explore the area around the home hoping to discover incriminating evidence. The Court explained that a visitor may knock on someone’s door but that the license to do so would be exceeded to bring a metal detector or a bloodhound into the garden. The Court further stated that “(o)ne virtue of the Fourth Amendment’s property-rights baseline is that it keeps easy cases easy. That the officers learned what they learned only by physically intruding on Jardines’ property to gather evidence is enough to establish that a search occurred.”
Lori G. Levin
Attorney at Law
180 N. LaSalle, Suite 3700
Chicago, IL 60601