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U.S. Supreme Court Strikes Down Warrantless Drug Dog Searches

In a landmark 4th Amendment victory, the U.S. Supreme Court held that police cannot utilize a drug-sniffing dog on a suspect's property prior to obtaining a search warrant.

The case, which originated in Miami-Dade County, began when some Miami-Dade Police detectives went to the home of Joelis Jardines on an anonymous tip that the property was being used as a marijuana grow house.

The detectives arrived with a drug-detection dog and walked up to the front door of the residence. The dog alerted to the smell of marijuana. Based on the dog's alert, a search warrant was obtained and a search of the residence revealed a large number of marijuana plants. Mr. Jardines was arrested and charged with trafficking in marijuana.

Mr. Jardines' attorney filed a motion to suppress arguing that the use of a drug dog on the accused's front porch without a warrant constituted an illegal search. The trial court judge agreed and granted the motion.

The State Attorney's Office appealed the ruling to the 3rd District Court of Appeal (DCA) where the trial court's ruling was reversed.

Then an appeal was taken by the defense to the Florida Supreme Court, who reversed the 3rd DCA and upheld the trial court's granting of the motion to suppress.

The case finally ended up before the United States Supreme Court where the ruling of the Florida Supreme Court was upheld. The Court agreed that the use of a drug dog on a person's property without a warrant constitutes an illegal search.

This ruling will likely pave the way for challenges to the warrantless use of drug dogs in all types of searches, including vehicle searches.