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!