Florida v. Jardines: Constitutional Dog Sniffs

November 8, 2012

The U.S. Supreme Court recently heard arguments regarding the expectation of privacy and use of trained dogs in detecting drugs at a private residence (Oral Arguments can be found at 2012 WL 5354910).  Florida v. Jardines (11-564) involves a case where a police dog was allowed to sniff the front door of the defendant’s home. This “sniff test” alerted the police to the presence of drugs in the home, and ultimately, marijuana was found in the home after a search warrant was issued. Case Below is 73 So.3d 34.


The trial court suppressed the evidence of the marijuana seized at Jardines’ home, relying on another Florida case, State v. Rabb, 920 So. 2d 1175 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2006), which held that a dog sniff at the front door of a home was in violation of the Fourth Amendment, thus no probable cause existed for the search warrant. The state appealed, and the district court reversed, finding that the dog sniff was not a search, and reasoned that the discovery of the illegal drugs was inevitable. Jardines then appealed to the Florida Supreme Court, which held that the “sniff test” did constitute a Fourth Amendment “Search,” thus should have been preceded by a finding of probable cause, and not mere reasonable suspicion.

Florida appealed the decision, along with another case involving a dog sniff of a vehicle. The Florida high court found that the state failed to prove that the dog’s alert to the presence of drugs was reliable enough to form the appropriate probable cause needed to conduct a search of the vehicle. Harris v. State, 71 So. 3d 756 (Fla. 2011), as revised on denial of reh’g (Sept. 22, 2011), cert. granted, 132 S. Ct. 1796, 182 L. Ed. 2d 615 (U.S. 2012)

Thomson Reuters New and Insight has a nice, quick summary of the SCOTUS proceedings from last Wednesday.


For related documents, try the following terms and connectors search:

dog canine /s sniff! /p front apartment house residence home /5 door /p drug “controlled substance” marijuana narcotic cocaine methamphetamine

Due to relevancy ranking in WestlawNext, we see Jardines at the top of our result list. Subsequent results include:

Vestal v. State, 14-10-00378-CR, 2011 WL 3332133 (Tex. App. Aug. 4, 2011), petition for discretionary review refused (Jan. 25, 2012) – Texas Court of Appeals found that a dog sniff at the front door of a home “did not intrude on a legitimate expectation of privacy” and was “not a search for Fourth Amendment purposes.”

Rodriguez v. State, 106 S.W.3d 224 (Tex. App. 2003) – Another Texas Court of Appeals case holding that a drug dog’s sniff outside the front door of a home did not constitute a Fourth Amendment search.

Fitzgerald v. State, 153 Md. App. 601, 837 A.2d 989 (2003) aff’d, 384 Md. 484, 864 A.2d 1006 (2004) – Maryland court found that a dog’s alert after sniffing an apartment door was sufficient to establish probable cause, and did not violate the Fourth Amendment.

If we glance at our secondary source results, we see the following promising articles in the initial results:

150 A.L.R. Fed. 399 (Originally published in 1998) – Titled: Use of Trained Dog To Detect Narcotics or Drugs as Unreasonable Search In Violation of Fourth Amendment

1 Uelmen and Haddox, Drug Abuse and the Law Sourcebook § 5:12 – Titled: Establishing probable cause—Dog sniffing of homes

Joseph Magrisso, Protecting Apartment Dwellers from Warrantless Dog Sniffs, 66 U. Miami L. Rev. 1133 (2012)

Leslie A. Lunney, Has the Fourth Amendment Gone to the Dogs?: Unreasonable Expansion of Canine Sniff Doctrine to Include Sniffs of the Home, 88 Or. L. Rev. 829 (2009)

So there are some great articles out there touching on this question. We should know the Supreme Court’s answer by the end of June.