Dogs Cannot Stick Their Nose Into Your Business

By Ashley D. Adams

(June 2013) The United States Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision in March of 2013 that a police drug-sniffing dog picking up a scent outside of the defendant’s home constitutes a “search” for which law enforcement had to first obtain a warrant. The ruling may limit how police use animals‘ sensitive noses to detect illicit substances on private property.

In Florida v. Jardines, Justice Antonin Scalia led the majority opinion, which stated that a search did indeed take place when Franky, the brown Labrador police dog, smelled marijuana outside someone’s house. His nose was considered to be a “detection device” which cannot be used by police to peer into the homes of private citizens without a warrant.

The Fourth Amendment says: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause…” This means that we are protected from unreasonable searches and seizures by government officials, such as the police. Law enforcement has to have probable cause for a search and must get a warrant. A search can include a frisking by a police officer, a blood test or a search of a home or car. Now, the Court has held, a detection by a dog is included in the definition of a “search.”

If you have any issues related to the Fourth Amendment or unreasonable search and seizures, please contact Ashley D. Adams, PLC via phone at 480.219.1366 or via this website. Ashley is a criminal defense attorney in Scottsdale and a former federal prosecutor.