Court Issue: Is Dog Sniff At Suspected Drug House an Official Search?


Was a dog sniffing at the door of a suspected drug house a case of “good boy, Franky, good boy,” or was he violating the Fourth Amendment rights of the resdents who lived there? The Miami Herald says that question may be headed to the U.S. Supreme Court in a Florida case. The state is asking the court to overturn a decision by the Florida Supreme Court, asking whether a sniff at the front door of the house by a trained narcotics detection dog is itself a search that requires probable cause.

The case involves a search of a Miami house where police had been tipped that someone was growing marijuana. After surveillance of the house turned up nothing, a detective went up onto the porch with Franky the drug sniffing dog. Franky gave the alert signal that he'd been trained to give when smelling drugs, and at that point the police left the porch. Another detective — aware that the dog had smelled drugs — then went to the door to knock on it and said he also smelled marijuana. The detective then left and went to get a warrant to search the house. The Florida Supreme Court later ruled that a dog sniff test at the door is “a substantial government intrusion into the sanctity of the home and constitutes a 'search' within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment.”

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