Supreme Court Justices Consider Constitutionality Of Searches By Drug-Sniffing Dogs

Two dogs, a chocolate Labrador Retriever named Franky and a German Shepherd named Aldo, will have a day at the US Supreme Court on Wednesday.

According to NBC News, the court date is scheduled in order to hear Florida’s appeal of two decisions made by the state’s highest court that found the finding of drugs by trained police dogs had violated the constitutional ban on unreasonable searches and seizures under the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution.

The two arguments involve two different issues. The two issues are whether a dog can sniff outside a home without a warrant and how qualified a dog must be to do a legitimate sniff.

They give the Supreme Court a chance to extend, or limit, prior decisions giving police a long leash to use dogs including for suitcases at airports and cars stopped at checkpoints.

“If the court vindicates the ability of police to use dogs without probable cause, and that a sniff outside a car justifies searching that car, it could enhance their ability to use dogs for law enforcement,” said Richard Garnett, a University of Notre Dame law professor and clerk for former Chief Justice William Rehnquist.


Like others in law enforcement, Florida believes that dog “alerts” are not searches because they find illegal activities that don’t deserve privacy protection.

Retired Supreme Court Justice David Souter mocked the idea in a dissent from a 2005 pro-sniff decision, saying it supposes that a trained canine becomes an “infallible dog” that never errs.

Twenty-three US states have joined each of Florida’s appeals. They are calling drug-detecting dogs “essential weapons” at the forefront of efforts to stop illegal drug production and sales.

The Supreme Court is often their ally in search cases and normally side with the police.