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Drug-Sniffing Dogs and Search Warrants

In the case of Florida versus Jardines, the police took a drug-sniffing dog to Jardines’ front porch where the dog gave a positive alert for illegal drugs. Based on that alert, the officers got a warrant to search Jardines’ home.  When they went inside Jardines’ home, the police found marijuana plants.  Jardines was charged with trafficking in marijuana.

Jardines appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court which ruled that it was illegal for the police to have brought a drug-sniffing dog onto Jardines’ front porch in the first place.   Specifically, the Court held that:

1.  The investigation of Jardines’ home was a “search” within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

2.  When the police obtain information by physically intruding on persons, houses, papers, or effects, a “search” within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment has occurred.

3.  At the core of the Fourth Amendment stands the right of a person to retreat into her own home where she can be free from unreasonable governmental intrusion.

4.  The area immediately surrounding and associated with the home—commonly called “the curtilage”—is part of the home itself for Fourth Amendment purposes.

5.  The officers entered Jardines’ curtilage when they went onto his porch with a drug-sniffing dog. The front porch is the classic example of an area “to which the activity of home life extends.”

6.  The police were not explicitly or implicitly invited onto Jardines’ porch.

7.  The police are not required to shut their eyes when passing by a home on a public street, but no one is allowed to go onto his neighbor’s property without first obtaining his neighbor’s permission.

 8.  A police officer who does not have a warrant may still approach a home in hopes of speaking to its occupants because any private citizen can do that.  But a homeowner’s permission to enter his property is limited to a particular area and to a specific purpose, and there is no customary invitation to enter the curtilage of a home simply to conduct a search as occurred in Jardines’ case.