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

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Armed with the combination of the long-running AC unit, the drug dog’s reaction on the front porch, and the detective’s own sense of smell, police obtained a court-authorized warrant to search the home.

During the resulting search, police seized marijuana plants being cultivated in the home. They also arrested Mr. Jardines as he tried to flee.

Jardines was charged with marijuana trafficking and with stealing over $5,000 worth of electricity from the power company by diverting the power around the house’s meter.

At trial, Jardines’ lawyer argued that all evidence from the house must be suppressed because the use of the drug dog on the front porch amounted to an illegal search in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

The judge agreed, and ordered that the seized evidence be withheld. The court said the remaining evidence of the detective’s own sense of smell, the long-running AC unit, and the anonymous tip were not sufficient to justify a search of Jardines’ home.

A state appeals court reversed, ruling that a canine sniff is not a Fourth Amendment search. The court said that a drug dog detects only contraband, and since no one has a legitimate privacy interest in contraband it did not violate the Fourth Amendment.

Also the appeals court said the officer and dog were legally present on the front porch and entitled to be there to request access to the home to investigate the earlier tip of suspected drug activity.

The Florida Supreme Court, voting 5 to 2, upheld the trial judge, ruling that the dog sniff was “a substantial government intrusion into the sanctity of the home and constitutes a ‘search’ within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment.”

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