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Why drug dogs need a warrant to sniff out your home

On Behalf of | Apr 3, 2017 | Criminal Defense |

Besides supplying you with shelter and storage, your home provides privacy, and you want to be sure that what you do inside your home remains private unless you choose to do otherwise. Even if you are engaging in illegal activity, you have the right for law enforcement to follow legal procedures on discovering and confirming the criminal behavior. Police officers have to follow specific laws on what they can do on or in your property and when, and those restrictions extend to the actions of police dogs. Learn what the law says about drug dogs sniffing out your home without a warrant.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruling


In 2013, five Supreme Court justices ruled in Florida v. Jardines that it is illegal for detection dogs to smell the area surrounding a home for contraband without having a warrant first. The judgement came from the following logic:


  • The police do not qualify as normal visitors and do not have the same rights.
  • The sole purpose of drug dogs is to determine the presence of illegal substances.
  • Going onto your property with a detection dog constitutes a search.


The justices saw this act as unconstitutional because it violates citizens’ Fourth Amendment protection from unreasonable searches and seizures and the requirement for police to have a warrant based on probable cause. A drug dog’s alert cannot be the source of the probable cause; it must already exist.


Exceptions to the rule


There are instances where a warrant may not be necessary and a search is legal. However, determining what those instances are is complex and dependent on the specific circumstances of each case. For example, how does the law apply to a common hallway in an apartment building?


What this means for you


If police unlawfully searched for drugs in your home based on the alert of a detection dog, then officers cannot use anything they found in your home as evidence against you. The court will rule to suppress it because law enforcement obtained it illegally. This can make a significant difference in the outcome of your case.


The police do not have the right to invade your privacy in a way that does not comply with the laws of the land, and you should not have to suffer the consequences of their illegal actions. The Constitution protects you whether you are guilty or innocent, so speak to an attorney about the details of your situation to determine if the use of drug dogs was unreasonable.