Kudos to the Florida Supreme Court for last Thursday’s (4/14/2011) ruling that “a warrantless ‘sniff test’ by a drug detection dog conducted at the front door of a private residence is impermissible under the Fourth Amendment.”
In a nutshell, based on an anonymous Crime Stoppers’ tip received a month earlier, a battalion of Miami-Dade police officers came to the home of Joelis Jaridnes with a narcotics dog who sniffed the front door and alerted to presence of narcotics. Armed with little more than the dog’s alert, detectives secured a warrant and searched the house. As it turned out, Lassie was right and the house was in fact a marijuana grow house.
Despite Lassie’s faithful sense of smell, the question is whether having police officers walking up to our homes and literally “sniff around “is permissible under the United States Constitution. The Florida Supreme Court in this carefully and thoughtfully written opinion recognizes the “special status accorded a citizen’s home” and calls such police conduct “an unreasonable government intrusion into the sanctity of the home” and a violation of the Fourth Amendment.
Amen to that – Let’s not forget that the issue is not this particular criminal. No one wants a drug dealer to “get away with it” but the far more significant issue is the preservation of our freedom, which at its core requires, at a minimum, that we be secure in our homes. There is little doubt in my mind that it is not reasonable for the police to come to my door with a dog and start sniffing around. It strikes me that a society that would permit such behavior by authorities can hardly be called free, which is precisely why the framers of the Bill of Rights gave import to protecting us from the tyrannical tendencies of government, including the use of man’s faithful best friend.
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