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Drug Sniffing Dog

David Rudoi Esq.

March 26, 2013

On March 26, 2013 the United States Supreme Court  issued its opinion in the case of People v. Jardines. In the case, the Miami-Dade Police Department working with the Drug Enforcment Administration took a drug sniffing dog to the front porch of Joelis Jardines’ residence in  southern Florida in order to build probable cause demonstrating marijuana was being grown inside the home.  Based on the drug sniffing dog’s alert the Police were able to obtain a search warrant for Jardines’ home.  Once in the home, police discovered growing marijuana plants. Jardines was eventually charged with distribution of marijuana.

In the trial, Jardines filed a Motion to exclude evidence claiming that police committed an illegal search of his home when they brought the drug sniffing dog to his entryway. The trial court granted the motion and the prosecution appealed that decision. The third district court of appeals reversed the trial court’s decision and Jardines appealed to the Florida Supreme Court.

Florida’s Supreme Court ruled that  bringing a drug dog to a house’s closed entrance, and having that dog sniff to identify marijuana cultivation, establishes in and of itself a search of the home. Thus, If such a search is conducted without a search warrant it also constitutes a violation of the Fourth Amendment, which guards Americans from unlawful searches and seizures.

The U.S. Supreme Court in People v. Jardines agreed with the Supreme Court of Florida in a 5-4 decision. The U.S. Supreme Court reasoned that the entry way is part of the curtilage of the home which enjoys protection as in the home itself. Since the police conduct (the canine investigation) was not explicitly or implicitly permitted by the homeowner the action constituted a search. Police are allowed to walk to the entry way because it can be said that that conduct is implicitly permitted based on the “habits of the country.” However, this implicit license only extends to walking up to the door, knocking, waiting for a response, and (absent an invitation to linger longer) leave. The court found there is no implicit license to conduct a canine investigation on the curtilage of a person’s home.

The Supreme Court distinguished this case from those involving canine investigations of luggage at airports, or canine investigations during the course of lawful traffic stops because this situation involved a physical intrusion onto a person’s real property.

This was a good decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, although it is worrisome that it was a 5-4 decision.  This case will surely effect how police conduct investigations across the country, and will protect the privacy rights of all. This decision will undoubtedly protect the medical marijuana community throughout Michigan.

At Rudoi Law we are experts in Fourth Amendment Issues. If you or a loved one has been subjected to a search by authorities call our hotline today at (248) 935-9074 to assess whether your rights have been violated.