The state of Florida is asking the US Supreme Court to reverse a ruling by the Florida Supreme Court that having a drug dog sniff the front door of a residence is a violation of the Fourth Amendment's proscription against unreasonable searches. Court followers told the Associated Press the high court is likely to take up the case.
The justices could decide this month whether to take the case, the latest dispute about whether the use of dogs to find drugs, explosives and other illegal or dangerous substances violates the Fourth Amendment protection against illegal search and seizure. In previous cases, the Supreme Court has upheld the use of drug-sniffing dogs during traffic stops, at airport luggage inspections, and for shipped packages in transit.
This case is different because it involves a private residence. The Supreme Court has repeatedly emphasized that a residence is entitled to greater privacy than cars on a highway, luggage at an airport, or a package in transit. The court used that reasoning in a 2001 case involving the use of thermal imaging to detect heat from a marijuana grow operation in a home, ruling that the scan constituted a search requiring either a search warrant or probable cause.
"We have said that the Fourth Amendment draws a firm line at the entrance to the house," the court held in that case, Kyllo v. United States. The opinion noted that thermal imaging could detect such private matters as "at what hour each night the lady of the house takes her daily sauna and bath."
Jardines and his attorney challenged the search, claiming the dog sniff was an unconstitutional intrusion into his home. The trial judge agreed, throwing out the evidence, but an appeals court reversed the lower court decision. In April, in a split decision, the state Supreme Court reversed the appeals court, siding with the trial judge.
Now, attorneys for Florida are seeking US Supreme Court review. They argue that the state Supreme Court decision conflicts with previous rulings that a drug dog sniff is not a search.
"A dog sniff of a house reveals only that the house contains drugs, not any other private information about the house or the persons in it," wrote Carolyn Snurkowski, Florida associate deputy attorney general. "A person has no reasonable expectation of privacy in illegal drugs."