The Supreme Court announced that it will hear the Florida case regarding using a dog sniff as cause to search a house.
This is, of course, the ultimate extension of the atrocious decision authored by Justice Stevens in Caballes v. Illinois that allowed dogs to determine whether there was probable cause to search a car.
In the drug detection case, Florida v. Jardines (docket 11-564), the Court agreed to decide one of the two questions raised. The constitutional issue at stake is whether police must have probable cause â€” a belief that evidence of a crime will be found â€” before they may use a dog sniff at the front door of a suspected â€œgrow house,â€ or a site where marijuana is being grown. The case grows out of a Miami police officerâ€™s use of a drug-detecting dog, â€œFranky,â€ in December 2006 to follow up on a â€œcrime stoppersâ€ tip that the house was being used to grow marijuana plants. The Florida Supreme Court ruled that police needed to have probable cause belief in wrongdoing before they could use the dog at the home, on the premise that the drug sniff was a â€œsearchâ€ under the Fourth Amendment.
The state of Florida told the Supreme Court that the state ruling conflicts with Supreme Court precedent that a dog sniff is not a search under the Fourth Amendment. â€œThis Court,â€ the state said, â€œhas explained that a dog sniff is not a search because the sole knowledge that the dog obtains by sniffing is the presence of contraband, which a person does not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in possessing in the first place.â€ The petition cited the Courtâ€™s 2005 decision in Illinois v. Caballes, and argued that the Florida courts â€œare now alone in refusing to followâ€ that ruling.
The State of Florida is, of course, saying exactly what Stevens did in Caballes, that “the sniff is not a search because the sole knowledge that the dog obtains by sniffing is the presence of contraband, which a person does not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in possessing in the first place.”
And that might be true if dogs were 100% correct in their sniffs, but as we know for a fact, they aren’t even close.
They’re playing dangerous language games because the actual fact is that all of us have an expectation of privacy in our personal belongings in our car or house and a dog’s sniff could just as easily result in our house being searched unreasonably.
If the Supreme Court rules in favor of Florida on this one, then just like with cars, they’ll be giving law enforcement complete free rein to go on fishing expeditions. All they’ll have to do is find a house that they want to search and bring a dog to it. The dog is likely to alert because of the handler’s desires rather than any actual presence of drugs.
The big hope, of course, is that new information and data on the fallibility of drug dog sniffs will cause the Supreme Court to not only rule against Florida, but reject Caballes, too.