Supreme Court to Rule on the Use of Drug Dogs

By Teresa Anderson

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear two cases involving the use of dogs to sniff out narcotics. In the cases, both of which originate in Florida, the Court is determining whether dogs can be used to ferret out drugs inside a private residence and what credentials are necessary to prove that a drug dog is properly trained.

In Florida v. Jardines, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that authorities violated the Fourth Amendment when it used a drug dog to sniff the exterior of a person’s home. In the case, police got a tip that marijuana was being grown inside Joelis Jardines’ home. Based on this tip alone, and without a warrant, police used a drug dog to sniff at Jardines’ front door. The dog alerted, indicating the presence of marijuana. Police entered the residence and found marijuana plants. Attorneys for Jardines argued that the search violated the Fourth Amendment and that a warrant is necessary to enter a private residence, even if a dog detects the presence of narcotics.

The court ruled: “Further, if government agents can conduct a dog ‘sniff test’ at a private residence without any prior evidentiary showing of wrongdoing, there is nothing to prevent the agents from applying the procedure in an arbitrary or discriminatory manner, or based on whim and fancy, at the home of any citizen. Such an open-ended policy invites over-bearing and harassing conduct. Accordingly, we conclude that a ‘sniff test,’ such as the test that was conducted in the present case, is a substantial government intrusion into the sanctity of the home and constitutes a ‘search’ within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. As such, it must be preceded by an evidentiary showing of wrongdoing.” The police appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In Florida v. Harris, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the constitutionality of using drug sniffing dogs to search a private vehicle depends on the dog’s reliability as a detector. The state appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In the case, a police officer conducted a traffic stop after determining that Clayton Harris was driving with expired tags. During the stop, Harris appeared twitchy and anxious. The officer suspected that Harris might be under the influence of methamphetamines. The officer asked to search Harris’ truck. Harris refused.


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