Sniffing Out Crime
Angels Camp, CA — The US Supreme Court has agreed to review a Florida Supreme Court ruling on whether a police dog’s sniff outside a house violates a suspect’s constitutional rights.
Angels Camp Police Sergeant Todd Fordahl said it will be a closely watched case. Sgt Fordahl is the assigned handler for “Turner” who is the only canine working in Calaveras County. According to Fordahl, Turner has been certified for narcotics detection since 2005. The Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office also has a dog. “Justice” was cleared for active duty in December 2010.
In the Florida case, the Associated Press reports that officers used a dog named Franky outside Joelis Jardines’ Miami-area house to get a search warrant. The warrant led to the discovery of 179 marijuana plants growing inside the home. The Florida Supreme Court dismissed the evidence seized in the search stating that the work by Franky was itself an unconstitutional search.
Although Fordahl did not know the specifics of the Florida case, he said police dogs are allowed to go anywhere an officer can go including up to the door of a home. Fordahl notes that in general other investigative methods are used in situations like the one in Florida. Fordahl also said that dogs are often trained to detect more than one odor, and a handler would not know which odor the dog was detecting.
The Supreme Court has allowed drug dog sniffs in other cases involving airport luggage and routine traffic stops. This decision will set a precedent for situations involving a home, which the court often says is entitled to a higher degree of protection.