Are Dog “Sniff Tests” of Homes Searches?

The State of Florida recently filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari with the United States Supreme Court in the case of Jardines v. State of Florida. The Writ comes after the Florida Supreme Court determined that a search of Mr. Jardines’ residences predicated on a “positive” hit from a narcotics dog violated the United States Constitution’s Fourth Amendment prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures.

First, I believe the Florida Supreme Court decided the issue rightly. Second, the State of Florida’s Petition for Writ of Certiorari raises some serious questions about the limits of police authority. Specifically, can the police gather the probable cause requisite for a search warrant based on nothing more than an anonymous tip and a “positive” hit during a sniff test? Ultimately, the police were at Mr. Jardines residence due to an anonymous tip to a Crime Stoppers hotline, not due to some prolonged investigation.

So, is a “sniff test” a search as defined by the Fourth Amendment? When conducted at a residence where the police have no probable cause beyond a tip, I believe so. Remember, the Fourth Amendment protects the citizen in his person, house, and effects against unreasonable searches….

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