On October 31 the U.S. Supreme Court will hear two dog-sniffing cases with important privacy rights implications, reports ABA Journal. In a post we wrote on this blog in April titled “ Do Alerts By Certified Drug-Sniffing Dogs Establish Probable Cause For A Search," we discussed the cases. In Florida v. Harris, at issue is whether a drug-sniffing dog’s alert establishes sufficient probable cause for an officer to initiate a search of a vehicle. In Florida v. Jardines, at issue is whether an officer can take a dog to the front porch of a home to sniff for possible marijuana inside.
Decisions in both cases could have enormous impact on privacy rights.
Jeffrey Meyer, a law professor at Yale University, wrote in a recent New York Times piece that he opposes the use of drug-sniffing police dogs without a warrant. Discussing how police dogs can be given to error (which we also discussed on this blog last year, here), he related the story of his own experience one time when he and his wife visited the U.S. Supreme Court for a law clerk reunion.
“My mistake was to drive a car in which our dog — a tennis-ball-loving Australian shepherd — often rode," he wrote. As he drove up to the court’s underground parking garage, a guard and his bomb-sniffing German Shepherd circled the car. “The bomb dog suddenly perked up, and the officer coldly instructed me to open the trunk of my car. I watched as the court’s canine rose up on its haunches — tail wagging — and snagged from inside one of my dog’s prized tennis balls. No bombs or contraband were found."
Discussing Florida v. Jardines, Meyers writes that “if the court rules for the government in the home-sniff case, it is hard to see why the police could not station drug-sniffing dogs outside the entrances to every school, supermarket and movie theater as a routine form of drug interdiction. . . . Moreover, today’s dogs will give way to tomorrow’s high-tech contraband-scanning devices that, under the reasoning pressed in the dog cases, would free the government to conduct routine scans of people’s homes or their bodies for all manner of contraband."