Thursday, June 28, 2012

Supreme Court to Consider Whether Dog Sniff at a Home Requires Probable Cause

The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to clarify when police may use a drug-sniffing dog at the front door of a house, when police believe the house is being used in drug trafficking.  In the drug detection case, Florida v. Jardines (docket 11-564), the Court agreed to decide one of the two questions raised.  The constitutional issue at stake is whether police must have probable cause — a belief that evidence of a crime will be found — before they may use a dog sniff at the front door of a suspected “grow house,” or a site where marijuana is being grown.  The case grows out of a Miami police officer’s use of a drug-detecting dog, “Franky,” in December 2006 to follow up on a “crime stoppers” tip that the house was being used to grow marijuana plants.  The Florida Supreme Court ruled that police needed to have probable cause belief in wrongdoing before they could use the dog at the home, on the premise that the drug sniff was a “search” under the Fourth Amendment.
The state of Florida told the Supreme Court that the state ruling conflicts with Supreme Court precedent that a dog sniff is not a search under the Fourth Amendment.  “This Court,” the state said, “has explained that a dog sniff is not a search because the sole knowledge that the dog obtains by sniffing is the presence of contraband, which a person does not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in possessing in the first place.”   The petition cited the Court’s 2005 decision in Illinois v. Caballes, and argued that the Florida courts “are now alone in refusing to follow” that ruling.

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