The United States Constitution guarantees all American citizens certain rights. Specifically, the 4th Amendment guarantees that every person has the right to avoid unreasonable search and seizure. There have been many court cases throughout the years determining when a search is unreasonable and what actions actually constitute a search for 4th Amendment purposes. The Supreme Court recently heard a case, Florida v. Jardines, in which it examined whether bringing a drug sniffing dog to the front door of a person’s residence was an actual “search.” Searches tend to be a hot topic in drug cases because the drug evidence is almost always obtained by way of some type of search.
Drug Sniffing Dogs Constitute a Search
If police want to search your person, motor vehicle, or home, they first need to obtain a warrant. The warrant must be approved by a judge and must be based on probable cause. Probable cause is determined by reliable a sufficient evidence that would cause a reasonable person to think a crime was being committed or was about to be committed.
Historically, the use of drug sniffing dogs was not considered to be a search because it was not intrusive. The Supreme Court has previously held that a dog sniffing a suitcase at the airport or sniffing a car at a checkpoint or during a routine traffic stop were not searches protected by the 4th Amendment. However, in Jardines, the Court distinguished those previous cases from bringing a dog to the door of a private residence. The opinions stated that both property and privacy rights were implicated by this type of action, therefore this was a search for the purposes of the 4th amendment. Because of this decision, police officers now have to obtain a warrant before bringing drug sniffing dogs up to front doors of private property.