29 Oct 2012

US Supreme Court to hear drug dog cases

8:06 am on 29 October 2012

The US Supreme Court is scheduled on Wednesday to hear an appeal by the state of Florida against two decisions that found the detection of drugs by trained police dogs violated the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution.

The arguments involve distinctly different issues: whether a dog can sniff outside a home without a warrant, and how qualified a dog must be to do a legitimate sniff.

Florida maintains that dog "alerts" are not searches because they uncover illegal activities that deserve no privacy protection.

At least 23 states have joined each of the appeals, calling drug-detecting dogs "essential weapons" at the forefront of efforts to stop illegal drug production and sales.

One of the cases, Florida v. Jardines, concerns a search outside a house near Miami on 5 December, 2006, where police had a tip that marijuana was growing inside.

Trained to find the strongest odor, a police dog went to the front door, sniffed the base, and sat down. After obtaining a search warrant, police found marijuana plants inside the house.

The other case, Florida v. Harris, involves a search of a pickup truck which was pulled over by an officer near Bristol, Florida, on 24 June, 2006.

After an alert from a dog, a search of the truck revealed 200 pseudoephedrine pills and 8000 matches, which are ingredients for methamphetamine.

The Florida Supreme Court ruled against the methods used in both cases.