In what could be a significant ruling for marijuana cultivators, the Supreme Court announced on January 6 that it would decide later this year if drug-sniffing dogs used at the front door of a private residence constitutes an unconstitutional search. The high court will base their decision on a 2006 Miami, Florida case in which a chocolate Labrador police hound named “Franky” was utilized in front of the home of pot cultivating suspect Joelis Jardines based on an anonymous “Crime Stoppers” tip. Franky quickly caught a whiff of Jardines’ weed growing inside – no surprise, considering dogs have olfaction capabilities that run anywhere from one hundred thousand to one million times more acute than a human’s sense of smell.
After he was convicted, Jardines appealed and the Florida Supreme Court ruled that using a dope-sniffing dog based on only an anonymous tip was a violation of Jardines’ Fourth Amendment right to privacy. Justice R. Fred Lewis wrote that the police using Franky was “turning the ‘dogs loose’ on the homes of Florida citizens” as part of the majority opinion. The Florida Justices did allow for the continued use of police dogs for traffic stops and inspecting packages and luggage at airports, but that private homes should be distinctly regarded. The state of Florida, along with 18 other states, appealed to the Supreme Court that the ruling would compromise their anti-drug operations – because it’s a lot harder to ascertain if someone is growing pot in a home without the hyper-keen senses of a dog’s nose to aid the raid. The high court will likely hear the case of Florida v Jardines in April.
Animal rights activists would also be pleased with the Supreme Court banning the use of drug dogs to sniff in front of homes, where residents could prove violent and potentially harmful to dogs that are “drafted” essentially against their will into performing often risky police service. Franky, the chocolate Labrador at the center of this case, has already retired and is fortunately out of harm’s way, though his prodigious proboscis could impact private home pot busts across the country for years to come.
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