Illegal Search & Seizure, Where Do Dogs Fit In?

by Mike Miller January 23, 2012

In the war on drugs our canine friends are suiting up for battle. Drug and bomb sniffing dogs have been around for a long time, but recently their powerful noses have been creating some powerful questions.

One question that has recently arisen is does a dog’s nose constitute probable cause to search or enter. In other words, if a dog smells marijuana is that grounds to enter a locked, private residence. In Florida it has fallen to the states Supreme Court to decide.

The Supreme Court agreed Friday to decide whether police may use a drug-sniffing dog at the front door of a house or an apartment to detect marijuana, even if the officers have no evidence of criminal conduct.

This is just the latest test of the 4th Amendment's protection against "unreasonable searches" in drug cases says the LA Times.

In the past, the court has upheld the use of dogs to sniff luggage at airports and to sniff around cars that were stopped along the highway. The justices said that using trained dogs in public areas didn't violate anyone's right to privacy.

Also in the past, the Supreme Court was unwilling to permit "dog sniff tests … at the home of any citizen" unless the police had probable cause of criminal wrongdoing.

As marijuana use continues to skyrocket it will be interesting to see if courts start to move toward allowing the searches.

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