Court: K-9 Search Violated Home Privacy

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of a marijuana grower’s privacy rights Tuesday, when a majority of justices decided a Florida K-9’s alert outside a home resulted in an unconstitutional arrest.

The court ruled 5-4 in Florida v. Jardines, the second K-9 search case on this year’s docket. The Floriday Supreme Court had ruled the search was “unsupported by probable cause” and that a person’s right to privacy is strongest in the home. In February’s Florida v. Harris decision, the court validated a K-9’s alert at a traffic stop.

In this majority opinion Tuesday, Justice Antonin Scalia ruled that law enforcement officers don’t have the right to bring a K-9 onto a subject’s porch to search for drugs.

In 2006, Miami-Dade Police Detective William Pedraja responded to a crimestopper tip that Joelis Jardines was growing marijuana inside the home and stealing electricity. Detectives Pedraja and Douglas Bartelt, a trained handler, brought K-9 Franky onto the property. After Franky alerted on the porch, officers obtained a warrant and arrested Jardines following the discovery of more than $700,000 worth of marijuana plants.

Justice Scalia called the search a “physical intrusion” in his ruling.

In his dissenting opinion, Justice Samuel Alito wrote that the search shouldn’t be considered a trespass because police have the same right to approach a residence as postal carriers or solicitors.

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Photo: POLICE file

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