The Supreme Court on Wednesday heard two cases regarding the use of drug-sniffing dogs by law enforcement officials. The Supreme Court's ruling, which is expected next June, could have long-ranging consequences for law enforcement.
The Florida Supreme Court ruled last year that using a drug-sniffing dog outside a home without first obtaining a search warrant was an "unreasonable government intrusion" of privacy. In a separate case, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that a drug-sniffing dog's alert did not provide probable cause for a search if the state could not prove the dog was reliable.
The state of Florida appealed both decisions to the U.S. Supreme Court.
During oral arguments on Wednesday, attorney Gregory C. Garre said that a home’s interior was protected from searches by the Fourth Amendment, but that odors emitted from inside the house were not, according to McClatchy.
“You may have an expectation of privacy in the marijuana plants, but you don’t have an expectation of privacy in the odor, because you’re emitting it out into the world, and it’s the odor that was detected,” Roberts, who is representing Florida, said.
But the justices were skeptical. Justice Antonin Scalia noted that the odor would not have been detectable had the officer not took the dog onto the defendants front porch. However, in the second case, the justices were also skeptical that the state should have to prove that a drug-sniffing dog is reliable.
The attorneys general of 24 states have urged the Supreme Court to side with Florida. In an amici curiae brief, they argued that the use of a drug-sniffing dog did not constitute a search under the Fourth Amendment. Noting the prevalence of drug-sniffing dogs, the attorneys generals wrote that the Florida Supreme Court decisions "substantially undermin[d]" law enforcement efforts.