What happens if police show up to your New Jersey home with a drug sniffing dog? Are they permitted to use the dog around your home to search for drugs without probable cause? Or do they need permission or a warrant? The United States Supreme Court recently addressed this question, and the outcome will likely impact many cases in New Jersey.Related: Criminal Law, What Happens on the First Court Date if Arrested?, Drug Crimes
Police Cannot Use Drug Dogs Without Permission
Police use drug-sniffing dogs all over the United States, and New Jersey is no exception. Often times, the police are within their rights to use such a dog as part of legitimate investigation, supported by probable cause. However, this does not mean that police can lead a drug dog to a person’s house, uninvited and without a warrant, and let the dog sniff around the property in the hopes that it finds narcotics.
This exact issue was the subject of the recent United States Supreme Court case of Florida v. Jardines. In that case, the police took a drug-sniffing dog to the defendant’s front porch and the dog gave an alert that it detected drugs. Based on that, the police obtained a warrant to search the house and recovered several marijuana plants. The trial court ultimately suppressed the evidence and the appellate court agreed. The case went up to the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court recognized that the Fourth Amendment grants everyone a right to retreat to their home and be free of unreasonable government intrusion. The courts have long recognized that this right does not only cover the inside of the home itself, but the surrounding area outside, known as the “curtilage.” In this case, the porch of the house is clearly part of the curtilage, entitled to protection. Police are allowed to approach a home, ring the bell, and hope to speak with the occupant – there is implied permission that any member of the public is allowed to ring the bell without specific permission. But the general public is not implicitly given permission to take their dog for a good sniff around the porch. Since the general public is not allowed to do it, then the police officer is therefore conducting “a search” within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment by using the drug dog at the premises. Therefore, held the Court, the police needed permission or a warrant supported by probable cause to use the drug dog on the porch of the house. Since they had neither, the evidence was thrown out.
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Remember, the police and prosecutors have teams of people working to put drug offenders in jail. In the process, they may overstep their bounds or arrest innocent people. If you have any question or you or a loved one were accused of possession of a controlled dangerous substance, please do not hesitate to contact us for a 100% free consultation.
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