Under the 4th Amendment, the Constitution guarantees that an individual is to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures in their homes. This is due to the fact that a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy from government intrusion in their home. However, does the 4th Amendment protect individuals from the police using a drug dog to sniff around your house?
Generally, in order for the police to search your house, they are required to have acquired a search warrant from a judge. To have this search warrant be granted, the police must be able to show that there is probable cause of either criminal activity or evidence. Without valid probable cause, a search is generally considered to be unreasonable and a violation of the 4th Amendment.
Search by Sniff
In Florida v. Jardines, the Supreme Court considered whether the use of a drug sniffing dog outside of a house to produce probable cause was valid. In the case, police officers in Florida received an anonymous tip about a potential marijuana growing operation at a private residence. Upon investigation, the police officers staked out the house. After some observation, a police officer and a drug sniffing dog went up to the front door to look around. After the dog gave a positive alert for the presence of illegal drugs, the police officers applied for a warrant based off this probable cause. On these facts, the Supreme Court determined that since the police brought the police dog onto the property without a search warrant, this conduct was a warrantless search by police, thus violating the 4th Amendment.
From Florida v. Jardines, the Supreme Court has bolstered the protection that individuals have in their home from government intrusion through the use of drug sniffing dogs. However, although the Supreme Court stated that bringing the drug dog onto the property was a warrantless search, the Court had no issue with the police officers approaching the front door themselves. Based off of this, if the police officers had smelled the marijuana themselves, then valid probable cause would have existed.
If you or someone you know have been charged with a criminal charge based off the positive alert of a drug dog, it is important to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney that can help zealously defend your case and possibly get the evidence excluded. Contact Us at Minick Law, P.C. for a free consultation on your case.