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Dog Sniffs

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What's wrong with this picture?

The police get a "crime stoppers" tip that a house is a marijuana grow house.  They go out with a drug detection dog and lead the dog up to the front porch, a place anyone can go without an invitation.  The dog alerts.  The officer prepares an affidavit, the magistrate issues a search warrant, and the police conduct the search.

There is nothing wrong with this picture.  This is solid police work.  In Illinois v. Caballes, 543 U.S. 405 (2005), the Supreme Court held that a dog sniff during an otherwise lawful traffic stop does not violate the Fourth Amendment.  The dog alerts only if he detects contraband.  Unlike the thermal imager at issue in Kyllo v. United States, 533 U. S. 27 (2001), the dog does not convey any information about private but lawful activities.  (The dog himself may know that you are eating pizza with anchovies, but he can't tell anyone.)

The fact that the police are on the publicly accessible porch of a house rather than outside a lawfully stopped car does not change the essential elements on which Caballes is based.  They are lawfully at the lookin' post (or sniffin' post), and they are not using any device that would tell them private information about lawful activities.

Well, the Florida Supreme Court didn't see it that way in Jardines v. State, SC08-2101.  Today, the US Supreme Court took up the case as Florida v. Jardines, No. 11-564.  The case will probably be argued in April and decided in June.

The State of Florida is ably represented by our friend and SCOTUS veteran Carolyn Snurkowski.

1 Comment

It would have been a lot easier for SCOFLA to say, "We don't like this; therefore, it's inadmissible."

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