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Supreme Court Weighs in on Drug-Sniffing Dogs

The U.S. Supreme Court recently upheld Fourth Amendment constitutional protections against the unreasonable search and seizure tactics in Florida v. Jardines. In this case, officers approached the perimeter of a home without a warrant, and with drug-sniffing dogs.

Typically police officers are permitted to do what any private citizen could. However, Justice Scalia, writing for the majority in the Jardines decision, explains that "A police officer not armed with a warrant may approach a home and knock, precisely because that is no more than any private citizen might do...But introducing a trained police dog to explore the area around the home in hopes of discovering incriminating evidence is something else. There is no customary invitation to do that.”

By way of contrast, if a police officer is walking down the street and can clearly see something indicating a crime, such as drug paraphernalia from the sidewalk, the officer is able to seize it without a warrant because this falls under the “plain view” exception to the warrant requirement. Plain view has come to have subsets, such as plain smell. Justice Elena Kagan noted in her opinion concurring with the decision, that a “drug-detection dog is a specialized device for discovering objects not in plain view (or plain smell).”  This is much different than if odors emanating from a home could be smelled from public locations.

Justice Scalia likened the use of drug-sniffing dogs to the use of thermal imaging technology, which the Court already ruled violates the Fourth Amendment if done without a warrant. This case has reigned in another potential overreach of police ability to skirt warrant requirements. There are many exceptions to warrant requirement that law enforcement uses to its benefit, but the Courts need to reign in these tactics when they are taken too far.

If you have been accused of any crime, contact an Ohio attorney who is experienced with search and seizure issues and can vigorously protect your constitutional rights.

 

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