Florida v. Jardines

Following is the case brief for Florida v. Jardines, 569 U.S. 1 (2013)

Case Summary of Florida v. Jardines:

  • Police used a drug-sniffing dog on Jardines’ front porch, and the dog alerted to the smell of marijuana.
  • The police then obtained a warrant, found marijuana in the home, and arrested Jardines.
  • At trial, Jardines moved to suppress the marijuana evidence.  The trial court granted the motion.
  • A Florida appeals court reversed the trial court, but the Florida Supreme Court reversed the appellate court, agreeing with the trial court’s decision to suppress the evidence.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the Florida Supreme Court, holding that use of the drug-sniffing dog on the porch was an unlawful search, without probable cause, in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Florida v. Jardines Case Brief

Statement of the Facts:

Local police received an unverified tip that marijuana was being grown in Joelis Jardines’ home.  Police officers then went to Jardines’ home with a drug-sniffing dog.  After noting that no one had come in or out of the residence for 15 minutes and that the shades were drawn, the officers brought the drug-sniffing dog on the porch of Jardines’ house.

The dog was trained to stop at the place where there was the strongest odor of marijuana, and the dog stopped at the bottom of the front door.  The police then obtained a search warrant based on the dog-sniff results.  The police executed the warrant later that day, their search revealed marijuana plants in the home, and they arrested Jardines.  At trial, Jardines moved to suppress the marijuana plants, stating that the dog-sniff was a violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Procedural History:

  • The trial court suppressed the marijuana evidence.
  • The Florida Third District Court of Appeal reversed.
  • The Florida Supreme Court reversed the Third District Court of Appeal, finding that the use of the dog was a Fourth Amendment search unsupported by probable cause.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Issue and Holding:

Is it a violation of the Fourth Amendment for police to bring a drug-sniffing dog on someone’s property to obtain evidence of wrongdoing?  Yes.

Judgment:

The decision of the Supreme Court of Florida is affirmed.

Rule of Law or Legal Principle Applied:

It is an unlawful search in violation of the Fourth Amendment for police to bring a drug-sniffing dog onto someone’s property to obtain evidence without probable cause.

Reasoning:

A Fourth Amendment “search” has occurred when the government physically intrudes on someone’s property.  Further, the home is paramount among the places that should be free from unreasonable government intrusion, and the curtilage surrounding the home is also part of the home for Fourth Amendment purposes.

In this case, the police violated the Fourth Amendment by entering the curtilage of the home to conduct a search.  Use of the drug-sniffing dog on the property was a “search” within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment.

Given the clarity of the trespass rationale here, there is no need to decide whether the police violated Jardines’ expectation of privacy.

Concurring and Dissenting Opinions:

Concurring Opinion (Kagan):

This case is the same as if the police came to a person’s front door with an unusually high-powered pair of binoculars, and used them to look into the windows of the home.  This is not just a case where the police had the customary invitation to come to the front door and knock to ask questions.  In this case, the police used a device (the dog) that had special abilities beyond what normal humans have.

Moreover, even though the Court analyzes this case as a trespass on property, it could easily be decided as a violation of Jardines’ reasonable expectation of privacy.

Dissenting Opinion (Alito):

Police officers and, for that matter, average citizens have the limited license to walk on a person’s walkway, and go to their front door.  There is no rationale for trespass here.  Also, there is no reasonable expectation of privacy issue because a reasonable person would expect that odors emanate from a house and can be detected outside of it.  Further, a reasonable person would not be able to determine what odors are only detectable by a dog, rather than a human.

Significance:

Florida v. Jardines is significant because it essentially equates a drug-sniffing dog with other super-sensitive pieces of equipment that have also resulted in Fourth Amendment violations when used by the police without probable cause.  What is also striking about the case is the makeup of the majority.  It placed typically conservative Justice Scalia (who wrote the majority opinion) and Thomas, with Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan.  At the same time, typically progressive Justice Breyer was in the dissent with Justices Alito, Roberts, and Kennedy.

Student Resources:

Read Full Court Opinion

Listen to the Oral Arguments

 

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