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Does drug dog sniff outside home violate privacy? Supreme Court takes case. (+video)

The Supreme Court will examine a case in which a drug dog signaled the presence of narcotics after being brought to the door of a home. A warrant was obtained, and growing marijuana was found.

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Miami-Dade narcotics detector canine Franky, who came out of retirement to give a demonstration, sniffs marijuana in Miami, last month. Franky's super-sensitive nose is at the heart of a question being put to the US Supreme Court: Does a police K-9's sniff outside a house give officers the right to get a search warrant for illegal drugs, or is it the sniff itself a search that violates the home's sanctity?

Alan Diaz/AP

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The US Supreme Court agreed on Friday to take up a case examining whether the use of a drug detection dog on the front porch of a residence suspected of containing a marijuana hothouse constituted a search under the Fourth Amendment.

At issue is whether police need a warrant before bringing a drug sniffing dog to the front door of a private home, or whether police are free to deploy such dogs to detect suspected illegal drugs and then use the dog’s reaction to obtain a warrant to raid the home.

The case, Florida v. Jardines (11-564), stems from a November 2006 anonymous tip to the Miami-Dade Police Department that the home of Joelis Jardines was being used to grow marijuana.

Roughly a month after receiving the tip, a detective went to the house. After watching the residence for 15 minutes, a police officer with a drug sniffing dog was sent to the front porch. While on the porch, the dog signaled its handler that it smelled the presence of illicit narcotics. A detective then knocked on the front door, where he said he also could smell marijuana.

No one answered the door. During the same period the detective noticed that the home’s air conditioning system remained running. The air conditioning in a normal home cycles on for a few minutes and then automatically turns off once the home is cooler.

Houses being used to grow marijuana are equipped with sun lamps that keep the inside temperature of the home hot, which can cause the air conditioner to run continuously, according to police.

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