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Supreme Court: K-9 Search Violated Home Privacy

March 26, 2013  | 

Photo provided by Becki and John Johnston of
Photo provided by Becki and John Johnston of

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of a marijuana grower's privacy rights Tuesday, when a majority of justices decided a Florida K-9's alert outside a home resulted in an unconstitutional arrest.

The court's 5-4 ruling in Florida v. Jardines marks its second K-9 search case this year. The case arrived after the Floriday Supreme Court ruled a narcotics search was "unsupported by probable cause" and that a person's right to privacy is strongest in the home.

In his majority opinion Tuesday, Justice Antonin Scalia ruled that law enforcement officers don't have the right to bring a K-9 onto a subject's porch to search for drugs. The ruling stems from a 2006 drug bust in Miami-Dade County.

Miami-Dade Police Detective William Pedraja had responded to a crimestopper tip that Joelis Jardines was growing marijuana inside a residence and stealing electricity. Detectives Pedraja and Douglas Bartelt, a trained handler, brought K-9 Franky onto the porch at Jardines' property. After Franky alerted, officers obtained a warrant and arrested Jardines following the discovery of more than $700,000 worth of marijuana plants.

Justice Scalia called the search a "physical intrusion" in his ruling, and said the area around a residence is protected by the Fourth Amendment.

In his dissenting opinion, Justice Samuel Alito wrote that the search shouldn't be considered a trespass because police have the same right to approach a residence as postal carriers or solicitors.

In February's Florida v. Harris decision, the court validated a K-9's alert at a traffic stop.

Editor's note: Look for a more detailed look at this case's effect on law enforcement in the May "Point of Law" feature.

Comments (33)

Displaying 1 - 33 of 33

rob @ 3/26/2013 12:06 PM

I am not certain how the dog alerting on smells emitting from the house is a "physical intrusion." What other ways may we find to protect criminals?

Scott @ 3/26/2013 1:09 PM

Does the court want more then a "tip" and a positive indication from a k-9? Such as trash pull evidence.

Mel @ 3/26/2013 5:33 PM

Way to go...reward illegal behavior and punish our protectors...u know wat??? I'm not the least bit surprised! Ridiculous!!

Bman @ 3/26/2013 5:49 PM

What if the officer smelled it? Would the warrant be valid then? The dog is a lot more reliable than a human when it comes to scent detection. They are also unbiased. So you cant take a dog to a knock and talk? This is one that I find to be unreal in its lack of common sense. This should be enough to unseat the Judge approving the warrant then.

westcoastleo @ 3/26/2013 5:52 PM

So, let me get this straight. They get a tip, they bring a dog in to sit at the door step on the porch outside the house. The dog alerts. Based on the alert and the tip, they get a search warrant "Signed By A Local Judge". With the warrant, they enter and find the grow and cash. True? Where's the problem? The Judge signed the warrant. There is no lie stated. There is no theft of money. Hell years ago they would have gone in killed the guy and stolen his cash. It was an honest investigation and the coppers did the job that they were trained to do. Every Miami Dade copper should walk off of the job at the narcotics bureau tomorrow. They should shut down the narco office and give up. The public does not care and Justice Scalia does not care. &%$* them.

LASD 33.4 years active

annoyedleo @ 3/26/2013 6:02 PM

Just another example of liberal vaginas making it easier for mopes & harder my brothers in blue.

Les @ 3/26/2013 6:43 PM

Well reading this it appears that the justices will soon say that an alert by a K-9 at a motor vehicle will not be permitted. If we are protected in our home why are homeowners being prosecuted for shooting someone who kicked in a door or smashed out a window to steel what they have worked hard for? The officers acted on a tip, validated the tip, gained fresh probable cause, typed up an affidavit for a search warrant based on the probabale cause, swore andd affirmed the contents were true and a judge gave it judical review then signed it. Everthign here was done in order and correctly and they want to throw it out. All I can say WOW. Officers doing there JOB right don't get break. They didn't go in right away with the alert, they iobtained a search warrant what else are the officers to do? $700,000. worth of weed is alot weed off the streets and away from the kids.

kenneth @ 3/26/2013 7:18 PM

So officer takes K-9 to knock and talk after receiving a tip, K-9 alerts, Officer gets search warrant. Sounds legal to me. Since when is air protected by the fourth amendment.

Domingo Montoute-Howard @ 3/26/2013 7:21 PM

Interesting, but that is why we are law enforcement officers and not judges and lawyers. They do the interpretation of the law and we do the enforcement.

Kevin Davis @ 3/26/2013 7:31 PM

First let me say. I am a elected Sheriff in the Great State of Alabama, have worked a police K9 for over 15 years, and own and operate a law enforcement training company. This is another sad ruling from a bunch that have no idea. Since when is any air more one persons than the others.

jlo @ 3/26/2013 7:50 PM

maybe the Judge is growing weed, haha. CYA

DaveSAM5525G @ 3/26/2013 8:48 PM

I am looking forward to read this assessment in -Look for a more detailed look at this case's effect on law enforcement in the May "Point of Law" feature. I went through two highlighters just reading his book and highly recommend in library- reference...Got the book to srand on it's own while on my desk reviewing from use...:-)

Corporal T.E./N.S.M. @ 3/26/2013 10:46 PM

Marijuana? Are we seriously still doing that? I mean heavy marijuana users tend to be complete and utter idiots, many of them working a teenager's after-school job well into their 30s and 40s, but the tax dollars and man-hours are a distraction given the damage that a meth-lab in that same residence would have justified. Ever heard of somebody overdosing on THC and having to have their stomach pumped? Ever had a grow house explode? Those idiots are playing video games and keeping the pizza delivery folks busy and well-tipped. As long as they're not driving on the stuff or neglecting children, let 'em keep doing menial jobs and living at home.

Andre @ 3/27/2013 12:39 AM

@ Corporal T.E./N.S.M Yea because im sure 700,000$ worth of marijuana was all for him. No. Obviously he wasnt just sitting at home "playing video games and keeping the pizza delivery boys well tipped". he was selling to people probably to teens who are targeted and get stuck in the rut of having a teenagers after school job up to there 40s you were talking about.So yea we seriously are still doing that.

Jim A @ 3/27/2013 1:16 AM

We cannot enforce the law when there is no law. We are constantly forced to hit the "moving target' and lately, the target is so far to the left, I cannot even see it!!

And I agree. $700,000 in marijuana is not just a casual user or someone growing for his own use.

I think Alito is more on the point here. We are allowed onto the porch, just like a mailman or any neighbor. And my thought is that if the OFFICER was doing a knock and talk, it would have been a different outcome. The dog is likely what killed this case in Scalia's mind. (The neighbor or mail carrier does not go onto your porch with a drug dog.)

Calvin @ 3/27/2013 4:36 AM

The opinion cites, "When “the Government obtains information by physically intruding” on persons, houses, papers,or effects, “a ‘search’ within the original meaning of the Fourth Amendment” has “undoubtedly occurred.” United States v. Jones"......So does this mean I can't even get a name from a mailbox by the front door anymore?! Man, they make it hard on the good guys.

Nicholas C @ 3/27/2013 4:45 AM

So now we have a K-9 that is close to 100% right all the time and we can catch people breaking the Law but we cannot use it?? If it is okay for the Officer to stand on the porch and knock on the door and the K-9 is treated like a 4 legged Officer I don’t get the problem. So let the Pot heads keeping home growing their weed and even raise kids around it and have it be okay because Law Enforcement is getting to good at their jobs. What a bunch of Liberal BS!

Ima Leprechaun @ 3/27/2013 5:23 AM

To obtain the search and arrest warrant the probable cause involved an illegal move by trespassing on the suspects property. There is no public right to anything on this guys property and using the front porch as a "public" area is wrong. Had the dog alerted on public property and combined with everything else they had, then the search warrant and arrest warrant would have been valid. They really didn't need the K-9 there was already enough probable cause for a search warrant without the K-9 but their illegal tresspassing violation invalidated everything they did after that. This was a rookie move on the part of the Police and they knew it. There were obvious violations of the 4th, 5th and 14th amendments. I would think the dog would have alerted from the street or an alley next door if there was that much THC in the air. The front porch approach and use of the K-9 was poorly thought out since they knew in advance of the K-9 search that they were fishing for evidence. The police messed this case up by breaking the law to obtain a search warrant, this one is a "no brainer" that the evidence obtained was done so by an illegal act by the Police. ([email protected] there was indeed a lie by the Police by trespassing on private property to obtain evidence)

Ima Leprechaun @ 3/27/2013 5:37 AM

Most of Florida Case Law stems out of poor officer training and the lack of up to date in-service training. Florida Crimnal Code still has laws on the books that were overturned by the Supreme Court in the 1960's and 1970's. Florida criminal code needs a complete revising and updating to current case law and Officers everywhere in Florida need better training on case law and ethics.

Donutplz @ 3/27/2013 6:37 AM

Ima Lep, apparently you dont get that anyone can walk up to your front door and if they smell something then leave and get a warrant that is not trespassing.
Air is not part of the 4th ammendment. Walking up to someones door is not trespassing until they tell you to leave. That never occurred.
Even if there was a no solicitors sign, that doesnt prevent the police, fire, mailmen, neighbors, etc, from coming to your door.

This ruling is garbage, Alito got it right unfortunately he was not part of the majority.

Fed Cop @ 3/27/2013 6:50 AM

Hey Ima Leprechaun, are you a card carrying ACLU (All Criminals Love U) attorney? You sure sound like it. How is a "knock 'n talk" a trespass? With your logic, anyone walking up to your front door is trespassing. How is smelling the air an invasion or a search under the 4th amendment?

Ima Leprechaun @ 3/27/2013 7:10 AM

Tresspassing is tresspassing and its illegal even in Florida. Nobody has any right to walk onto my property without my permission. So they did violate tresspassing laws. Air from public areas is fair game but air from the front door on my proerty is not. Read Florida Legal Code section 810.08 a posted sign is not a requirement to prove intent of this law also seeing as the offenders had firearms that bumps the tresspass up to a felony. Anyone on my property for any reason without a legal warrant to be there is trespassing per Florida State Law. "Learn it, Know it, Live it" ...Brad Hamlton to Jeff Spicoli

Trigger @ 3/27/2013 7:12 AM

I am not always in favor of the Supreme Court rulings but I have a question. Was there any type of recon done on the residence prior to arriving with K-9, was there any attempt to work the neighborhood and try to work a possible CI, was there an attempt to do a buy, was a knock and talk attempted, was an attempt made to investigate the "stealing of electricity", etc.. I personnaly feel that the police took a shortcut in getting this job done. A tip was received and K-9 hit on odors, a judge should have questioned as to where the odors were coming from (could have been the neighbors??). I have worked the streets for 35 years and have seen police cut corners to later have cases tossed because of sloppy work. Are we going to keep sloppy police work and have the courts start shutting us down because of Consititutional concerns? Remember once a ruling is in place it never goes away and we have to deal with it. Sure the dope head lost $700,000 in dope but what have we lost. We need to make sure things are done correctly (if time prevails).

Ima Leprechaun @ 3/27/2013 7:18 AM

Fed Cop! its not my logic it's the State of Florida Criminal code. In Florida there are such fun laws as the stand your ground law and the kill a burgler law which also applies to trespassers. Florida law defines what you call "knock and talk" as a trespass. So I can only assume you live in Arizona where civil rights and the US Constitution does not exist. I just play by the rules and some like you cut corners and disrepect the law and thats how Case Law comes about.

Rick @ 3/27/2013 8:54 AM

They should have used another method; they could have called the local fire department and borrowed a thermal imager. The imager would have shown high heat in the house consistent with a grow operation. That would have been PC to get a warrant or to search with the K9.

adam @ 3/27/2013 11:10 AM

Thermal imagers used in this type of instance have already been deemed an invasion of privacy by the US Supreme Court. As an LEO I keep seeing tools used deemed unconstitutional and see it as a precursor to the outright legalization of many drugs and an end to the costly and unwinnable war on drugs. Time to nito who the dealers are and bust em when they evade taxes or commit a dangerous felony. Remember taxes pay the luxuries afforded to supreme court judges as well as their bonuses aka salaries. Hit people for tax evasion and its all good.

rich @ 3/27/2013 8:36 PM

One way or another these librals are determind to distroy america. But then again, they were all anti americans during the 60s smoking weed and fighting the police.

DaveSAM5525G @ 3/28/2013 2:30 AM

IMA Leprechaun who reads the meter's for gas-water-electricty - are they not trespassing according to your logic and subject? Maybe there was another way to approach this!! In his dissenting opinion, Justice Samuel Alito wrote that the search shouldn't be considered a trespass because police have the same right to approach a residence as postal carriers or solicitors. and add these also.who reads the meter's for gas-water-electricty.

DaveSAM5525G @ 3/28/2013 2:35 AM

Typo' corrected-IMA Leprechaun who reads the meter's for gas-water-electricity - are they not trespassing according to your logic and subject? Maybe there was another way to approach this!! In his dissenting opinion, Justice Samuel Alito wrote that the search shouldn't be considered a trespass because police have the same right to approach a residence as postal carriers or solicitors. And add these also; who reads the meter's for gas-water-electricity

So the post office box that I put on my property and receive mail through is not governed by the federal law either then?

Michael @ 3/29/2013 6:47 AM

Justice Scalia was wrong, period. The dissent was right. Neighbors complained about the possibility of drug activity. The police politely did a knock and talk and had a canine dog with them on the outside of the house. The police were correctly doing their job and the dog was a permissable tool per the Supreme Court decision of Cabelles. It is a shame that in the name of an expectation of privacy or tresspass analysis, the Court has come to this conclusion. It is such a shame when the Supreme Court uses the 4th Amendment to protect the criminals in the neighborhood and not the good citizens who reported the criminal activity. I am convinced that were this put to the vote, the majority of Americans would say there is no reasonable expectation of privacy in the air that is emmitted from the interior of one's home to the outside door stoop. This county is falling apart is so many ways. Sad....very sad.

LASD 20 Years @ 4/2/2013 8:24 AM

Give me a break. Here we go again. This was a good bust, by the book. Had this been a drug lab, and the neighborhood endangered, law enforcement would then be criticized for not taking action. Justice Scalia cannot have it both ways....

Ima Leprechaun @ 4/5/2013 4:48 PM

[email protected] Another man with no understanding of the law, meter readers are on utility easements, my mailbox is at the road. Anyone with my permission can enter my land or anyone I have in writing given permission to like the gas/water/and electric company. I have never granted any solicitors permission to enter my property and I can so post against it if I desire. As it is I like talking to the Jehovah's Witnesses when they come around but that is my right. But bringing a police dog on my property to specifically look for fruits of a crime is illegal without a warrant even in Arizona, thank God.

Dan @ 4/5/2013 7:41 AM

I'll side with the justices. Officers are allowed to come on the property, but if they are using tools to gather evidence from inside a home that would not be obtainable without the tool; it is a search. The officers aren't being punished and neither are the citizens. The marijuana was still seized and destroyed. The "criminal" - a marijuana grower is not a criminal - is still out $700,000 worth of product. That is still pretty sufficent justice considering the nature of the problem. A criminal is still a citizen worthy of having their rights respected. The law can still be enforced and justice served while acting within the framework of the oath we have taken.

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