Supreme Court Strikes Down Drug Dog Sniffing Without a Warrant
Do you understand what curtilage is? Thankfully, the United States Supreme Court does – just barely. Curtilage is process government and law enforcement use to examine a person’s private life in the search for evidence of illegal activity.
Can the government invade a person’s privacy? Yes, with a court approved warrant to conduct such searches which can only be issued on the basis of probable cause. Yesterday, the Supreme Court upheld the Florida District Courts overturning of curtilage performed without a warrant.
The 5-4 ruling was both narrow and crossed political ideology. In the decision, the Supreme Court held that the 4th Amendment Right against illegal search and seizure had been violated by drug dog sniffing in cases where the animals obtained evidence for police without a warrant to find such evidence.
“The police cannot, without a warrant based on probable cause, hang around on the lawn or in the side garden, trawling for evidence and perhaps peering into the windows of the home,” Justice Antonin Scalia said for the majority. “And the officers here had all four of their feet and all four of their companion’s, planted firmly on that curtilage – the front porch is the classic example of an area intimately associated with the life of the home.”
The case involved a Florida man Joelis Jardines who was arrested following police showing up at his front door with a drug sniffing dog. Once the dog alerted the police to the presence of drugs, they entered Jardines’ residence and found the drugs.
The Supreme Court’s ruling now affirms that such invasions into a person’s private life cannot be conducted by “accident” or chance occurrence. Law enforcement must have probable cause to believe illegal activity is occurring and obtain a warrant to retrieve proof of the activity. The ruling is a huge victory for privacy concerns of individuals.
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Drug Dog’s Sniff Is An Unconstitutional Search, Rules U.S. Supreme Court