The Supreme Court recently made a decision restricting the use of drug sniffing dogs. The court’s decision stated that law enforcement trained dogs could not investigate a home and its immediate surroundings without a warrant. The court’s opinion, by a 5-4 vote, indicated that specially trained animals looking for evidence of drugs violated the Fourth Amendment.
The case of Florida v. Jardines, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 11-564 began in 2006 when a Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agent received a tip that Joelis Jardines was growing marijuana at his house. The DEA sent agents and a drug-sniffing dog to the residence. The dog, Franky, verified the smell of marijuana emanating from the residence. A law enforcement officer on the scene, Detective William Pedraja, stated that he smelled the scent of marijuana as well.
Pedraja received a search warrant that day and returned to the Jardines residence, confirming that the house was growing marijuana. Jardines was charged with trafficking in excess of 25 pounds of cannabis and with grand theft for stealing over five thousand dollars of electricity used to grow the marijuana.
The Jardines defense countered to suppress the evidence because Franky’s presence constituted an unreasonable search. The defense argued that Franky provided confirmation of marijuana before Pedraja could make his own determination. The defense also argued that the anonymous tip was not sufficient evidence for the search. The Supreme Court voted in favor of Jardines.
The court’s decision is stupid and a slap in the face of common sense. This decision will handcuff law enforcement and aid drug dealers. It also sets the precedent that "odors" emanating from a house are protected from unreasonable search, whatever that might be at the moment. The decision also will restrict the use of law enforcement dogs in supporting searches.
Since the DEA received an anonymous tip, it reasons that they should research the tip before moving forward. The court’s decision will now create a problem in doing due diligence before asking for a search warrant. Maybe Justice Scalia prefers law enforcement agencies to knock on the door and ask if illegal activities are being performed on the premises. If the answer is no, then the authorities should move on, since obviously nothing illegal is going on in the premises.
Since Franky obviously alerted the agents to the marijuana, and not the tip, law enforcement dogs are also part of the problem. It doesn’t matter that the dog confirmed presence of marijuana and the tip. It also doesn’t matter that Pedraja confirmed the smell himself. What matters is that human smell analysis cannot be trusted and that a dog’s analysis requires a warrant.
The Supreme Court may want to rethink its decision after it has smoked a joint or two. They should not inhale, however, just like former President Bill Clinton. Once they get a whiff or two, they may understand the smell of marijuana and how it can be different from cigarettes or roast beef. Once that happens, they may understand that they erred in their decision to blame law enforcement and dogs for illegal drug activity.