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Supreme Court Tightens the Leash on Police Dogs

The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution protects our right to be free from "unreasonable searches and seizures" and requires police to obtain a warrant before conducting a search.

In recent years, society has watched with tacit compliance as our civil liberties and freedom from government oversight slowly eroded to pave the way for "homeland security." Although the competing interests of individual freedom and public safety are often at odds, the balance between the two defines the concept of America as we know it.

According to, the United States Supreme Court issued an opinion tilting the scales slightly back toward a society based upon freedom from Government intrusion by declaring use of drug sniffing dogs on someone's front porch, without a warrant, as an unreasonable search in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

In the case Florida v. Jardines, the police intruded upon the defendant's porch and allowed trained drug sniffing dog to smell the door for odors of drugs. The dog alerted the officers of drugs present inside the home and the officers then entered the house without a warrant. The officers then seized several marijuana plants and arrested the occupant of the home and charged him with trafficking drugs.

In a 5-4 decision, the majority held that the use of drug sniffing dogs inside the "curtilage" of the house was an unlawful search. The "curtilage" is an area directly surrounding the house in which a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy to be free from government intrusion. The Court held that the porch and surrounding bushes were protected as "curtilage" and the police should have obtained a warrant to search the house rather than relying on the drug dog's alert to justify warrantless entry.

If you or someone you know is charged with a crime based upon evidence seized in an unlawful search; you should call a Scranton Drug Lawyer today. Protect your legal rights!