The justices of the Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday in two Florida cases concerning drug-sniffing dogs. The court’s rulings could affect how the use of these dogs affects people’s Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure.
The first case involved a police dog who detected the smell of marijuana outside a Florida house. This led the police to obtain a search warrant for the house, where they discovered a marijuana-growing operation.
Five justices seemed skeptical about allowing police dogs to sniff around outside people’s homes with probable cause. They asked questions about the officer’s intent in approaching the door, how long the dog spent sniffing around and whether a implied consent exists for people to approach the front door of a home in general.
The prosecutor essentially said that law enforcement officials would not be violating the Fourth Amendment if they routinely used police dogs to check every door in a neighborhood or took them inside apartment buildings to “sniff around.”
In the second case, a Florida man had been pulled over in his pick-up truck. A police German shepherd helped the officer find chemicals used to make methamphetamines in the truck. The argument before the court focused on whether the dog’s reliability had been established. The ruling in the case could affect how officers may use drug dogs near vehicles and what privacy protections citizens enjoy in their cars.
If you have been accused of an offense involving illegal drugs it is important to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney. They can help you protect your constitutional rights in the criminal justice system and work toward the best possible outcome in your case.
Source: The New York Times, “Drug-Sniffing Dogs Have Their Day in Court as Justices Hear 2 Arguments,” Adam Liptak, Oct. 31, 2012
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