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Detection dog home search case up at the Supreme Court

The US Supreme Court’s decision to review a detection dog’s search of a Florida home will have implications for other contraband detection work and investigative techniques that use dogs, said a privacy group on Jan. 10.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 6 decided it would review Florida v. Jardines, that addresses whether a dog sniff at the front door of a home is a search that requires probable cause, said the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC). The case follows another involving a traffic stop and a canine search of a vehicle, Illinois v. Caballes, in 2005.  The Supreme Court held in that case that a dog sniff around a car during a routine traffic stop was not a search.

However, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that Caballes was inapplicable in the Florida v. Jardines case. In Florida v. Jardines, a drug detection dog sniffed the outside door of a suspected marijuana grow house, which lead to the house being searched. The Florida Supreme Court said the dog’s outside odor detection was "a substantial government intrusion into the sanctity of the home and constitutes a 'search' within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment."  

EPIC said the case implicates the government's use of "enhanced" investigative techniques designed to detect contraband. “Because these techniques are imperfect and also allow the government to search for material that is not illegal, EPIC has argued that a Fourth Amendment probable cause standard should apply,” said the organization.

The U.S. Supreme Court could hear oral arguments on the case in April, with a decision possible by the end of June.