Illegal Searches by Drug Dogs

Instead of searching for candy on Halloween, police dogs were being looked at by the Supreme Court for possible searching unwarrantably for drugs. Two court cases have been filed and brought to the attention of the Supreme Court regarding the use of police dogs and the protection of the public under the fourth amendment.

The two cases raise the issue to whether searches can be sought when a canine gives a clue to whether there are drugs and/or other contraband from the outside of the residence or car of a person. Within the Fourth Amendment the "right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures."

The Supreme Court has given law enforcement significant use of their discretion, but with these two cases the Supreme Court is forced to check whether lines are being crossed regarding ones freedoms. The two cases not only reflect the individual rights being overlooked but also the accuracy of canine drug alerts.

The first case is regarding Miami-Dade detective Joelis Jardines and his canine Franky. When a tip was given, the police officer with dog in hand went to the called residence. The dog instantly began sniffing and signaling to the officer that drugs were close by. The detective also stated that an unusual odor was around as well air conditioning and moth balls on the stoop to hide any scent. With these identifiers a search warrant was obtained and Marijuana was found growing in the residence.

Although the drugs were found and a warrant was obtained, the Florida Supreme Court overturned the conviction saying that the the warrant was used as an "unreasonable government intrusion into the sanctity of the home."

"It seems to me crucial that this officer went onto the portion of the house to which there is privacy, and used a means of discerning what was in the house that should not have been available in that space." Stated Justice Antonin Scalia.

Unlike trick-or-treaters or someone selling a product door to door, there was no consent for the police and his canine during this case, says Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. On the other side, Gregory Garre who is for the state explained in 2005 U.S. Supreme Court that dog sniffs are not an invasion. Although Garre states this many justices see this as a potential for police stepping over constitutional mandates.

The second case is Clayton Harris, who was stopped in Liberty County outside Tallahassee in 2006 for an expired license. The sheriff deputy who was on the stop brought along with him his canine Aldo. Aldo kept his focus on the trucks door handle. A search was then conducted and found 200 pills used to make methamphetamine.

The Florida Supreme Court reversed the conviction given to Clayton Harris. The dog was found to be unreliable. The justices found the dog unreliable for the truck was stopped again a few weeks after the first stop. Aldo again alerted, but this time, no drugs were found. The idea that a dog is certified or trained is not enough for the establishment of probable cause to search the vehicle.

The rulings of these cases are expected to be out in the coming months. Whether or not a canines initial response to the exterior of a home or vehicle is permissible will be concluded in the rulings of Florida v. Jardines and Florida v. Harris.


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