SCOTUS Considers Use of Drug Sniffing Dogs

The U.S. Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments in two cases concerning the use of drug sniffing police dogs and the Fourth Amendment’s ban on unreasonable searches.  Both cases originated in Florida.  The first, Florida v. Jardines, involved a Labrador named Franky.  After receiving an anonymous tip, police brought Franky to the porch of a private home, where Franky alerted to the presence of drugs inside.  The police used Franky’s alert to obtain a search warrant of the home, which was found to be a marijuana grow house.

The second case, Florida v. Harris, involved a German Shephard named Aldo, who alerted to the presence of drugs in a vehicle his officer had stopped for an expired vehicle registration.  Aldo’s alert was used as justification to search the vehicle, revealing chemicals used to manufacture methamphetamines.  A few weeks later, the same vehicle was stopped again, and though Aldo alerted for drugs, no drugs were found.

In oral arguments, the Supreme Court questioned the differences between a drug sniffing dog and other, inanimate, drug detecting devices.  They also questioned whether a resident impliedly consents to a police dog’s, or any other dog’s, presence on his or her porch.

Both cases were argued before the court on October 31, 2012, and rulings are expected next June. The Court’s decisions have the potential to significantly alter how law enforcement agencies use their K-9 partners in drug investigations.

Read transcripts of oral arguments by the parties before the U.S. Supreme Court at Florida v. Jardines and at Florida v. Harris.