Do the police have a right to get a search warrant for your home if a police dog outside indicates the presence of drugs? The United States Supreme Court could decide this month whether to take a case from Florida involving exactly that scenario.
According to Florida’s highest court, Franky the drug dog’s ability to smell marijuana growing inside a Miami-area home from outside the closed front door crossed the constitutional line, reports Curt Anderson of the Associated Press. But Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, a conservative Republican, wants the cops to be able to come on in.
Many experts expect the Supreme Court will take up the Florida case, Florida v. Jardines.
According to Tom Goldstein of SCOTUSblog, the Florida Supreme Court took a very broad reading of the Fourth Amendment different from that of other courts. “It’s an interpretation that a majority of the U.S. Supreme Court will question,” he said.
|Tom Goldstein of the SCOTUSblog: “It’s an interpretation that the majority of the U.S. Supreme Court will question”|
Cops, of course, are mighty fond of their canine companions and claim they are absolutely essential for good narcotics work, despite the fact that the pooches are often wrong and, in fact, many of them allegedly give false “positives” due to subtle cues from their handlers.
Researchers at the University of California – Davis decided to put K9s to the test and it didn’t turn out well for the dogs, who gave false alerts more than 200 times, reports Russ Belville at NORML.
The accuracy of the dogs’ work is affected by their human handlers’ beliefs, possibly in response to subtle, unintentional cues, the UC Davis researchers found, reports Amelia Glynn at SF Gate.
“Dogs are exceptionally keen at interpreting subtle cues, so handlers need to be cognizant of that to optimize the overall team performance,” said Anita M. Oberbauer, UC Davis chair of the Department of Animal Science and the study’s senior author.
Franky, a chocolate Labrador, retired in June at eight years old after a seven-year career as a K9 with the Miami-Dade Police Department. He’s supposedly responsible for the seizure of more than 2.5 tons of marijuana, 80 pounds of cocaine and $4.9 million in “drug-contaminated money.”
The U.S. Supreme Court has okayed drug dog searches in several other major cases. Two of those involved dogs detecting drugs during routine traffic stops. In another, a dog detected drugs in airport luggage. A fourth involved drugs in a package in transit.
But the difference in the Florida case is that it involved a private residence; the Supreme Coiurt has repeatedly emphasized that a home is entitled to greater privacy than cars on the road or a suitcase in an airport.
On the morning of December 5, 2006, Miami-Dade cops and Drug Enforcement Administration agents hid outside a house south of the city after getting a tip that it “might contain” a marijuana grow operation. Drug dog Franky quickly detected the odor of pot at the base of the front door, and sat down as he was trained to do.
That was used to get a judge to sign a search warrant. The house was tossed and its lone occupant, Joelis Jardines, was arrested trying to run out the back door. Officers claimed they found 179 live marijuana plants in the house, which they claimed were worth more than $700,000.
Jardines, now 39, was charged with marijuana trafficking and grand theft for stealing electricity. He pleaded not guilty and his attorney challenged the constitutionality of the search.
The trial judge agreed and threw the evidence out, but that was reversed by an intermediate appeals court. A divided Florida Supreme Court in April sided with the original judge who threw out the evidence.
“There is simply nothing to prevent agents from applying the procedure in an arbitrary or discriminatory manner, or based on whim and fancy, at the home of any citizen,” the Florida court majority concluded.
The criminal case against Jardines is on hold until the question regarding Franky’s detection of the marijuana is settled. Meanwhile, Jardines is out on bail following his 2010 arrest for alleged armed robbery and aggravated assault.