Imagine that you were growing marijuana under the radar, and not bothering anyone around you. Because of a random tip (upset friend, jealous neighbor, ‘fill in the blank’) cops come to your house with a drug dog to see what they can find. They use a police dog to walk around your property, and it alerts that something is in the house. I’d imagine it isn’t hard to get an alert from a dog that has been riding in a car and is being directed towards a house, even if they are specially trained. The cops then use that dog alert as evidence for a search warrant. They they raid your house, even though you were causing no harm. Does that sound fair?
Hopefully you are thinking no, like I am, and rest assured that the majority of The United States Supreme Court agrees with us. The The United States Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to uphold the Florida Supreme Court’s ruling throwing out evidence seized in the search of Joelis Jardines’ Florida house. Below are the facts of the case from Cornell Law:
“After receiving an anonymous tip that Joelis Jardines’ home was being used to grow marijuana, Drug Enforcement Agency (“DEA”) officers conducted a warrantless surveillance of Jardines’ home. During the surveillance, a drug detection dog sniffed the exterior of the home and alerted to a smell of marijuana at the front door. Based on this positive alert, among other indications of marijuana production, the officers were granted a search warrant. The search confirmed that the house was being used as a marijuana grow house and Jardines was charged with drug trafficking…”
“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, according to the Huffington Post. “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.”
Justice Scalia was joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. The four justices who dissented in the case were Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Stephen Breyer, Justice Anthony Kennedy and Justice Samuel Alito.