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Dog's Nose Triggers Supreme Court Showdown

If a police dog sniffs marijuana outside your home, is that an unconstitutional search?

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By Jed Bickman

01/03/12

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In the next month, the US Supreme Court will decide whether to take a case that could bring the dogs to your door if the cops suspect you of growing pot or some other smell-able offense. The case involves a Miami police dog named Franky, who smelled out 179 pot plants at the private residence of Joelis Jardines. On the strength of Franky’s nose, the police got a warrant to search Jardines’ house and arrest him. Jardines’ trial lawyer successfully argued that the use of a police dog at the threshold of the house was a violation of the Fourth Amendment protection against illegal search and seizure, and the evidence was thrown out. The attorney general appealed, and won a reversal—but then the Florida Supreme Court agreed with the trial judge. Observers of the US Supreme Court say it is likely to hear the case, because the Florida Supreme Court used a broader interpretation of the Fourth than many other states. The US Supreme Court has affirmed the use of drug sniffing dogs in cars and airports, but a house is a different story: "We have said that the Fourth Amendment draws a firm line at the entrance to the house,” read a 2001 court decision banning the police use of thermal imaging technology. This case will either reinforce or undermine that firm line.

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