By J. Amy Dillard, Associate Professor of Law, University of Baltimore School of Law
This morning, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear two cases that address whether the sniff of a dog constitutes a search of a home under the Fourth Amendment and whether a trained drug-sniffing dog’s “alert” gives probable cause for a warrantless search of a vehicle.
Where citizens have very low expectations of privacy like the exterior of luggage in an airport terminal, the Court has held that the warrantless sniff of a dog does not violate the Fourth Amendment. But in Florida v. Jardines, a trained police dog, without a warrant, sniffed the front porch and door of a home, where the occupant’s Fourth Amendment privacy interests were at her strongest; he alerted that drugs were within the home by sitting down at the front door. Based on the dog’s alert, police obtained a warrant to search the home and found marijuana plants. At issue in Jardines is whether the defendant had a Fourth Amendment interest in protecting the exterior of her home from a sniffing dog. In Florida v. Harris, the Court must address the reliability of a trained drug-sniffing dog and determine what evidence the government must offer of that reliability when the dog provides the fundamental piece of evidence supporting probable cause to justify a warrantless search of a vehicle. In Harris,a police officer responded to an alert by a trained police dog on the exterior handle of a vehicle and, relying on that dog’s alert, entered the vehicle without a warrant and seized drug contraband.