The case of a Florida man arrested for allegedly trafficking in marijuana may be taken up by the United States Supreme Court in the coming weeks. As some of you may be aware, the Miami-Dade Police Department arrested Joelis Jardines on charges of drug trafficking after a trained narcotics sniffing dog, Franky, alerted police to the presence of marijuana in the house. Police were originally alerted to suspicious behavior from an anonymous tip. The Florida Supreme Court, in Florida v. Jardines, found that using Franky the drug sniffing dog constituted an illegal search in violation of the 4th Amendment of the US Constitution, and suppressed all subsequently discovered evidence as fruit of the poisonous tree. Because of the “special status accorded a citizen’s home in Anglo-American jurisprudence,” the Court distinguished prior Federal case law holding warrantless dog drug sniff tests of luggage at airports and cars in traffic stops legal. Florida v. Jardines, No. SC08-2101, slip op. at * 39 (Fla April 14, 2011). In addition, the Court held the lack of a more extensive police investigation (the police only did a 15 minute surveillance of the home and observed the air conditioner running constantly and the blinds drawn) made it necessary to obtain a warrant.
In a particularly interesting exchange in his special concurrence, Justice Fred Lewis said that, “The scent of items cooking on a stove, the whiff of an air freshener, or even the foul smell associated with a ruptured sewage line are all intimate details of a home that are expected to remain private and unavailable to the public.” Id. at 43. So, for Justice Lewis at least, a dog sniff test can never occur without a warrant, since even the air emanating from a home is protected under the Fourth Amendment.
What do you think? Should the police be allowed to use a drug-sniffing dog without a warrant? Are smells and odors coming from a home meant to be private? Would the fact that the AC was continuously running for 15 minutes in the middle of December when the surveillance occurred, change your opinion of the police investigation? Let us know.
Here is a link to the actual Florida Supreme Court Opinion possibly before the US Supreme Court: http://www.floridasupremecourt.org/decisions/2011/sc08-2101.pdf
Here is a link to a recent Miami Herald article on this case: