The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments yesterday in two cases testing what limits, if any, there are to the police using drug-sniffing dogs. NPR reports that it looked very much as though the court would rule against the use of drug-sniffing dogs without a warrant in one case, but not the other. Franky, a chocolate Labrador, had a near-spotless record as a drug-detection dog in Miami-Dade County. The question is whether his human police partners violated the Fourth Amendment’s ban on unreasonable searches. After police got an anonymous tip, they took Franky up to the front porch of a private home, and when he alerted to drugs inside, the police used that as justification for getting a search warrant.
Aldo had a less august dog-detection pedigree, and the question was whether his qualifications as an expert were sufficient to justify the sniff of a truck. Lawyer Gregory Garre represented Florida police, prosecutors, and the dogs in both cases. Garre’s argument, in defense of Franky’s sniff at the home, was that Franky was trained only to look for drugs. Garre said, “the court has emphasized that a drug-detection dog reveals only the presence of contraband, and that nobody has a legitimate expectation of privacy in that.” But justices of every ideological stripe hammered Garre on that argument. Justice Anthony Kennedy said he could not accept as a reasonable argument the premise that if there’s contraband, “all the rules go out the window.” Justice Sonia Sotomayor added that if you have no expectation of privacy for contraband, “why bother with a search warrant” at all.