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warrantless, dog sniff, Northbrook Criminal Defense AttorneyWhen you are going though an airport, you understand to a degree that civil authorities are looking to keep air travel safe, and sometimes that means that your luggage may be subject to dog sniff by an animal trained to detect explosive materials. Like it or not, submitting to such measures is part of the trade-off in being granted the privilege to travel by air. Your home, however, is a different story. Under the constitution, you are protected against unlawful search and seizure of your property which, as the United States Supreme Court has decided, includes a warrantless sniff for drugs by a police dog.

Warrantless dog sniffs were declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Florida v. Jardines back in 2013. In that case, police had received a tip that Miami man was growing marijuana in his home. A detective went to the home and after observing for 15 minutes without approaching the door, brought a drug-sniffing dog onto the premises. The dog apparently detected the scent of marijuana and alerted his handler. Based solely on the behavior of the dog, police obtained a search warrant and proceeded to search the home, finding a number of marijuana plants.

At trial, the warrant and seized plants were suppressed on the grounds the warrant was based on an unreasonable search—the sniff conducted by the dog. On appeal, however, the appellate court disagreed, holding that the sniff was legal. The Florida Supreme Court, and ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed with original trial court that a warrantless sniff of a person’s home violates the individual’s Fourth Amendment rights. In the opinion of the high court, law enforcement has the right to approach a home without a warrant like any private citizen, knock, wait for a response, and engage in conversation with the home’s occupant. Introduction of police dog, however, is deemed by the court to be an elevated level of investigation that requires a warrant issued on the basis of probable cause.

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