News Release ~ 03/26/2013

Supreme Court: Dog Sniffs At Persons’ Homes Are Searches Requiring Probable Cause Under the Fourth Amendment  

Washington, DC (March 26, 2013) – In its decision in Florida v. Jardines (11-564), the U.S. Supreme Court today upheld the Florida Supreme Court, which affirmed the suppression of marijuana evidence unearthed by law enforcement arising out of their use of a canine sniff at Mr. Jardines's front door without probable cause. This is the second dog sniff opinion of the term. This time, though, the Court sided with personal rights over law enforcement’s use of enhanced searching technologies.     

NACDL President Steven D. Benjamin said: “Today’s decision in Jardines is bigger than dog sniffs and where law enforcement has a right to be. It’s about using enhanced searching capabilities, other than officers’ own senses, to find out what is going on inside a person’s home. Whether in the context of a search of a home for the smell of marijuana, or the surreptitious installation and electronic tracking of a person’s movements for a prolonged period of time, the Fourth Amendment remains the people’s check on police power.”         

As in United States v. Jones, the GPS case from last term, the Court’s majority today reaffirmed a centuries-old tradition to “keep easy cases easy”—the government must obtain a warrant before it may intrude upon private property in order to gather evidence of a crime.  By finding the conduct of law enforcement in this case to have violated a person’s constitutional right to protection from unwarranted search and seizure, the Supreme Court made clear today that the Fourth Amendment is not, in fact, dead.

The use of a trained police narcotics dog is no different than the use of GPS or thermal heat imaging technology. Law enforcement may not use enhanced search technologies to intrude upon private spaces without a warrant. Today’s ruling reinforces the old adage that “a man’s home is his castle” and the Government, even in the form of a “drug sniffing” dog, cannot intrude on that fundamental right with the purpose of gathering incriminating evidence without a warrant.    

A link to the Supreme Court’s opinion in Florida v. Jardines is available here.

A link to NACDL’s joint amicus curiae brief with the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is available here.

Contact: Ivan J. Dominguez, Director of Public Affairs & Communications, (202) 465-7662 or idominguez@nacdl.org

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's approximately 10,000 direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal justice system.

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