Supreme Court: Did a Drug Sniffing Dog Violate the 4th Amendment?Published January 9, 2012
The case, which dates back to 2006, has a long history, beginning when Miami-Dade police used the detection dog Franky to sniff out whether there may have been illegal drugs inside the residence of Mr. Joelis Jardine. Franky, who has a reliable track record (he is responsible for the seizure of more than 2.5 tons of marijuana and $4.9 million dollars of drug-contaminated money), indicated with his tell (sitting down) that there were indeed drugs inside of Jardines' home. Using Franky's signaling as their primary evidence, the police obtained a warrant to search Jardines' residence; he was subsequently arrested for trafficking after police found 179 marijuana plants in his home.
Since the finding, the evidence that police obtained using Franky's nose has been the subject of hot debate. At Jardines' initial trial, the judge dismissed the evidence against Jardines, explaining that the plants were obtained through an illegal search and seizure. At Jardines' state appeal, however, the court reversed the ruling and reinstated the drug charges against the defendant.
In April 2011, the Florida Supreme Court dismissed the case against Jardines, opining that “there is simply nothing to prevent (police) agents from applying the procedure in an arbitrary or discriminatory manner, or based on whim and fancy, at the home of any citizen."
Florida state attorney, Pam Bondi, petitioned the United States Supreme Court, hoping that the highest U.S. court will overturn the Florida Supreme Court ruling. In her legal filings, Bondi argues that a dog's breathing air outside of a home is not the same as a search. In her petition, she also states that “most importantly, the Florida Supreme Court's decision strips law enforcement of an irreplaceable tool in detecting those who grow marijuana in their living rooms; construct meth labs in their kitchens; hide bodies in their basements; or make bombs in their garages."
In addition, 18 states and the territory of Guam filed briefs to support Bondi's petition.
To date, the U.S. Supreme Court has heard four dog sniffing cases: two cases involved the use of sniffer dogs after a traffic stop; one concerned airport luggage, and the last had to do with a package in transit.
This case is a landmark case, as it will be the first that includes both a drug sniffer dog and a private residence. The United States Supreme Court has held repeatedly that homes are entitled to greater privacy rights than public spaces or automobiles when police use dogs to search for illegal activity.
The case will be likely to be heard by the Court in April. The justices will probably issue a ruling in June.
What are your thoughts on this story? Did Franky and his nose violate the Fourth Amendment? Share your thoughts in a comment!