U.S. Supreme Court Hears Oral Argument In Drug Dog Sniff Cases

The US Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a pair of cases out of Florida involving the use of drug sniffing dogs. One case centers on the question of legality in using drug dogs to sniff around the outside of random homes without a warrant; the other is about the reliability of drug dogs in practice. Both cases have the possibility of either expanding or limiting the use of drug dogs under Fourth Amendment jurisprudence and change their effect in Jacksonville drug cases.

The first case, Florida v. Jardines, involved the defendant being arrested for marijuana cultivation after police brought a drug dog to defendant’s door without a search warrant, then returned with a search warrant after the drug dog alerted the authorities of drugs. The other case, Florida v. Harris, involved the defendant being arrested on methamphetamine charges after a drug dog alerted authorities of his vehicle’s possible containing of drugs. The same individual was stopped again two months later in the same vehicle and the same drug dog alerted, but no drugs were found. imagesdrugdoggy.jpg

In both cases, the state of Florida appealed the Florida Supreme Court decisions holding that the drug dog searches were illegal, in the first because it was a warrantless search of a home and in the second because an find sufficient evidence of the drug dog’s reliability the Court did not.

The first case raises an issue of whether homes are subject to a higher Fourth Amendment standard than automobiles in traffic, luggage being sniffed on a conveyer belt, packages being sniffed at a package delivery service, or other moving or movable objects. The Supreme Court has upheld the warrantless use of drug dogs in those cases, but have granted greater protections to the privacy of the home, prohibiting police from using such measures as thermal imaging equipment to detect drug grow operations.

The State of Florida is arguing that a drug dog sniff of a residence does not constitute a search under the law and thus no warrant is needed. The State further rationalizes that a drug dog sniff is different from technology in that dogs do not allow police to see inside a home, unlike the thermal imaging the Supreme Court had already ruled against.

Drug dogs, even though specially trained for a purpose, are still dogs. Dogs get excited and will alert to things like tennis balls in trunks other animals in the vicinity. Because the Court must consider the totality of the circumstances in determining whether probable cause to conduct a warrantless search is sufficient, any fact that bears on a dog’s reliability as a detector of the presence of drugs comes within the review of the courts.

Many times, a motion to suppress evidence is the only thing that forces law enforcement to adhere to the Constitution, by making sure that if the search is not done correctly, the evidence will excluded, leaving the State with no case. If one obtains an experienced Jacksonville drug crimes defense attorney to fight for one’s case and ensure one’s rights are protected, one can be sure that one will know one’s rights, know what the prosecution and police have access to, and will be able to make sure that wrongfully obtained evidence will not be used against one.


The Forbess Law Firm has been aiding clients who face criminal charges in Jacksonville for years and are here to provide aggressive criminal defense to anyone accused of a crime. If you or a loved one require a Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer, contact our firm today. We are available through our website or by calling us at 904-634-0900.

Additional Source: Supreme Court Hears Drug Dog Cases, Phillip Smith, StopTheDrugWar.org