On October 31, 2012, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments related to police use of drug detection dogs. One of these dog detection cases is Florida v. Jardines, No. 11-564. In this case, the Supreme Court will decide whether: (1) a trained narcotics detection dog sniff at the front door of a suspected marijuana-grow-house is a Fourth Amendment search requiring probable cause; and (2) whether the officers' conduct during the investigation of the marijuana-grow-house, including remaining outside the house awaiting a search warrant is, itself, a Fourth Amendment search.
In this case, on November 3, 2006, Detective Pedraja of the Miami-Dade Police Department received an unverified "crime stoppers" tip that the home of Joelis Jardines, the respondent-defendant, was being used to grow marijuana. On December 6, 2006, at 7 a.m., detectives approached Jardines’ residence and watched the home for fifteen minutes. There were no vehicles in the driveway, the blinds were closed, and there was no observable activity. After fifteen minutes, the dog handler arrived with the drug detection dog, Franky. The handler placed the dog on a leash and accompanied the dog up to the front door of the home.
On the scene during the dog sniff test were multiple police vehicles, multiple law enforcement personnel, including narcotics detectives, the dog handler and dog. The entire on- scene government activity lasted for hours and the dog alerted to the scent of contraband. The handler informed the detective of the positive alert for the odor of narcotics found by the dog. Then, the detective approached the front door for the first time, and smelled marijuana. A detective also observed that the air conditioning unit had been running constantly for fifteen minutes or so, without ever switching off, which the detective explained in his experience that in a hydroponics lab for growing marijuana, high intensity light bulbs are used which create heat and causes the air conditioning unit to run continuously without cycling off.
Based on the above information, the detective prepared an affidavit and applied for a search warrant, which was issued. During the search, law enforcement confirmed that marijuana was being grown inside the home. The defendant was arrested. At the trial court, the defendant moved to suppress the evidence seized at his home.
The trial court granted Jardines’ motion to suppress the evidence, and the State appealed. The district court reversed, and Jardines sought review at the Supreme Court of Florida. The Supreme Court of Florida concluded that probable cause, not reasonable suspicion, is the proper evidentiary showing of wrongdoing that the government must make prior to conducting a dog “sniff test” at a private residence. The State then petitioned for writ of certiorari at the U.S. Supreme Court. On January 6, 2012, the Supreme Court granted certiorari.
At oral argument, the government argued that there is no reasonable expectation to the curtilage of the home and when a drug detection dog reveals only the presence of contraband, there is no reasonable expectation of privacy. Jardines, the respondent-petitioner, argued that the dog sniff test that was conducted was an intrusive procedure as it took place in plain view of the general public and there was no anonymity for the resident, Jardines, and therefore was a substantial government intrusion into the sanctity of the home and constituted a “search” within the Fourth Amendment.
The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to issue its decision by next summer. We will keep you posted. The case is Florida v. Jardines, No. SC08-2101. To review the lower court’s decision, visit: http://www.floridasupremecourt.org/decisions/2011/sc08-2101.pdf.