SCOTUS Rules K9 Sniff of Home is an Illegal Search

Miami-Dade Police K9 Franky

In a move I think we all saw coming, the Supreme Court of the United States held that a K9 sniff to the exterior of a house constitutes a warrantless search and as such is a violation of the Fourth Amendment in Joelis Jardines v. State of Florida (SC08-2101).  As I had written in my earlier article, the interesting argument posed by the State of Florida in this case was that the sniff of the K9 dog detects only illegal substances, not the legal activities of an ordinary citizen.  It also does not “illuminate” the residence to public examination, as would a search of the residence.

SCOTUS addressed the State’s argument that “investigation by a forensic narcotics dog by definition cannot implicate any legitimate privacy interest.”  By way of analogy, they cited their review, last Term, of the GPS tracking case in United States vs. Antoine Jones (10-1259), which discussed Fourth Amendment rights in a public setting.

Unmoved by the State’s assertions, the Justices ruled 5-4 that, “The government’s use of trained police dogs to investigate the home and its immediate surroundings is a “search” within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment.  The judgment of the Supreme Court of Florida is therefore affirmed.”

Again, for those of us who have handled narcotics detector dogs, this ruling was not a surprise.  All the K9 drug schools I have attended reviewed case law and taught that this type of deployment is an illegal search.  How Miami-Dade did this and then found a state attorney to support and a  judge to sign a search warrant for the home is beyond me.

Okay, everybody, back to business…


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