A Labrador retriever and a pot bust

Los Angeles Times | October 31, 2012

The Supreme Court has said that at the “very core of the 4th Amendment stands the right of a man to retreat into his own home and there be free from unreasonable governmental intrusion.” The court’s commitment to the sanctity of the home will be tested Wednesday by a case featuring as familiar a symbol of domestic life as the family home itself — a dog. Only in this case, the dog was not the householder’s best friend but the police officer’s.

The justices will decide whether police committed an unreasonable search when, acting on an anonymous tip, they deployed a drug-sniffing Labrador retriever named Franky at the Miami-area home of Joelis Jardines. The dog sniffed around outside the front door and gave the police the signal they were looking for, on the basis of which they obtained a warrant, and a search discovered marijuana. Jardines was charged with trafficking in more than 25 pounds of marijuana and stealing the electricity needed to grow it.

However, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that even though neither the police nor the dog entered the house without a warrant, the search was illegal. While this case is not identical to (or, as lawyers say, “on all fours with”) its previous decisions safeguarding the privacy of the home, the U.S. Supreme Court should follow suit.

Clearly the police would have violated Jardines’ 4th Amendment rights if they had entered his home before obtaining the warrant, with or without Franky. But since 1967, the court has recognized that an unconstitutional search need not involve physical trespass. In a 2001 decision that is likely to loom large in Wednesday’s oral arguments, the court ruled that federal agents violated the 4th Amendment when they trained a thermal imaging device at a home to determine if the building was generating the sort of heat associated with marijuana production.

Read more at: http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/editorials/la-ed-dogs-search-supreme-court-20121031,0,5733788.story

Photo credit: David McNew / Getty Images

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