Monday, April 01, 2013

Use of a drug-sniffing dog on a front porch is a Fourth Amendment intrusion

In Florida v. Jardines, 11-564 (March 26, 2013), in a 5-4 decision, the United States Supreme Court affirmed suppression of evidence of marijuana obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment. After an unverified tip that Jardines was growing marijuana in his home, police observed the home for 15 minutes, saw no movement and could not see into the house through drawn blinds, and then brought a drug-sniffing dog onto the porch who ran around on a 6-foot leash and positively identified the odor of marijuana and the door to the home as the strongest point source of the odor. Based on those observations, officers obtained a search warrant. Justice Scalia, writing for the majority, found the case "straightforward." The porch is the curtilage of the home which enjoys protection as part of the home itself. Entry onto the porch with a trained drug-sniffing dog to find incriminating evidence was an unlicensed physical intrusion outside the scope of social custom. The officers’ purpose in entering the porch is relevant to whether they had an implied license to be there. Regardless of whether the investigation violated Jardines’ expectation of privacy under Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347 (1967), the officers’ conduct intruded upon the “property rights baseline” of the Fourth Amendment. Three concurring justices would have affirmed the suppression on privacy and property grounds.

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