On February 19, 2013, the Supreme Court announced its decision in Florida v. Harris, and on March 26, the Court announced its decision in Florida v. Jardines. Both cases involve the use of narcotics detection dogs and the Fourth Amendment.
The question in Florida v. Harris was whether a narcotics detection dog’s “alert” constitutes probable cause for the search of a private vehicle. In a unanimous opinion delivered by Justice Kagan, the Court held that because the training and testing records demonstrated the dog’s reliability in detecting drugs--and the defendant failed to undermine that evidence--the dog’s “alert” provided probable cause for searching the vehicle.
Florida v. Jardines considered whether taking a narcotics detection dog to smell the exterior of a house where police suspect marijuana is being grown constitutes a search under the Fourth Amendment. In an opinion delivered by Justice Scalia, the Court held by a vote of 5-4 that the dog sniff did constitute a search for purposes of the Fourth Amendment. Justices Thomas, Ginsburg, Sotomayor and Kagan joined the majority opinion. Justice Kagan filed a concurring opinion, which was joined by Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor. Justice Alito filed a dissenting opinion, which was joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Kennedy and Breyer.
To discuss the cases, we have Elina Treyger, who is an assistant professor at George Mason University School of Law.