Tuesday, March 26, 2013


The US Supreme Court issued an opinion this morning, relative to the use of police dogs to find evidence of narcotics trafficking.

Police took a drug-sniffing dog to Jardines’ front porch, where the dog gave a positive alert for narcotics. Based on the alert, the officers obtained a warrant for a search, which revealed marijuana plants; Jardines was charged with trafficking in cannabis. The Supreme Court of Florida approved the trial court’s decision to suppress the evidence, holding that the officers had engaged in a Fourth Amendment search unsupported by probable cause.
I'm no lawyer, to the contrary, I'm just a common police officer, but I've been around police dogs when they were searching for contraband.  At issue seemed to be whether the police dog, upon smelling marijuana in the residence, constituted enough probable cause for the officers to obtain a warrant.  The reasoning seemed to rest on the expectation of privacy and the legal concept of curtilage.  Justice Scalia authored the majority opinion.

It seems to hold that the use of a dog to sniff at the front door violated Jardine's expectation of privacy, that the marijuana in the residence would not have been found without the use of the superior olfactory glands of the dog and the police would not have had reason to ask for a warrant.  It's one thing to approach someone's front door for a knock-and-talk, it's another thing entirely to bring a drug-sniffing dog with you.

The implications are significant.  There have been times when I have stopped a vehicle for a legitimate traffic stop, became suspicious, and had a dog do a walk-around of the vehicle.  If that dog alerted, that gave me probable cause to increase my intrusion.  However, in Louisiana as in many jurisdictions, the vehicle is considered an extension of the home.  If a sniff at the front door of a residence is not enough, then will it be enough for a sniff at the driver's door of the vehicle?  That's a question that will take time to sort out.

Hat tip to Ann Althouse.  Let Freedom Ring!


BobF said...

By extension, then, I wonder about the use of RF receivers and the newer technology that can "see" through walls. If I understand the decision corectly, the dog, as a higher tech extension of a human LOE's senses, cannot establish PC on his own.

Old NFO said...

Personally, I think 'part' of the whole issue is the 'cuing' to the dogs to get the response they want. Seen it done on a traffic stop before... And heard an officer brag about doing it anytime he wanted a closer look at a car.

Phil K said...

I have to go with Old NFO on this one. The lines are getting way to thin and the police who step over them don't seem to be accountable in the same way that non-police are (I refuse to use the word civilian since police are civilians also ... or they should be).

I am always amazed at how good my dogs are at scent trailing and identifying game for me, so I am very willing to believe that dogs could be used to pick out drug cars and drug houses. I no longer trust their handlers though.

Termite said...

If the only illegal drug being produced and sold/consumed was marijuana, we wouldn't have a real drug abuse problem. I've NEVER seen people get violent while stoned on pot.