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Lesson Plan for Florida v. Jardines

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Certiorari granted by the United States Supreme Court on January 6, 2012
Oral arguments scheduled for October 31, 2012


The Parties

Petitioner: State of Florida


Respondent: Joelis jardines

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Coming soon.

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The Questions Presented

Is a “sniff test” performed by a drug dog at a house that may grow drugs a Fourth Amendment search requiring probable cause?
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Case Background

Facts of the Case

Franky the Drug-Sniffing Dog

In November 2006, the Miami-Dade Police Department received an unverified “crime stoppers” tip that Joelis Jardines was growing marijuana inside his home in Homestead, Florida. Without obtaining a warrant, the police brought a drug-detection dog, Franky, to Jardines’ house one month later. Multiple police cars lined the street. The dog handler conducted a “sniff test” on Jardines’ porch, and the dog made a signal, alerting the handler that there was marijuana inside the house. Largely on the strength of this information, another detective applied for and received a search warrant. A search of the home revealed that Jardines had, in fact, been growing marijuana inside. The drugs were seized, and Jardines was arrested.

Jardines argued that because the evidence of the drugs was obtained in violation of the Constitution, he asked the court to exclude it from trial (this is called “moving to suppress evidence”).  After a hearing at which the detective and dog handler both testified (Franky, alas, could not bark for himself in court), the state trial court entered an order suppressing the evidence, determining that the search was unconstitutional because of a lack of probable cause. The State of Florida appealed this ruling to a court of appeals.

Court of Appeals of Florida

Jardines’s House

The state appellate court reversed the trial court’s decision to suppress the evidence, ruling that a canine sniff designed to detect only contraband does not infringe any legitimate privacy interest and so is not a search under the Fourth Amendment. It was not illegal for the officer and his dog to stand outside Jardines’ front door. A warrant was not necessary for the drug-dog sniff, and the warrant the officer obtained after the search was indeed justified by a showing of probable cause. Jardines appealed his loss to the Florida Supreme Court.

Florida Supreme Court

The Florida Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals, and ruled for Jardines. It concluded that the “sniff test” was a substantial intrusion into the sanctity of Jardines’ private dwelling and so was a “search” for Fourth Amendment purposes. The government must demonstrate probable cause (not merely reasonable suspicion) and obtain a search warrant before conducting such a “sniff test” outside one’s home.

The State of Florida appealed this decision to the Supreme Court of the United States in a petition for a writ of certiorari. Aside from arguing that dog sniffs are a valuable law-enforcement tool, Florida alleged a conflict between the Florida Supreme Court’s ruling and a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision regarding the use of drug-detection dogs at traffic stops.

The Supreme Court granted the writ of certiorari on January 6, 2012, agreeing to hear Florida v. Jardines. Oral arguments are scheduled for October 31, 2012.

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The Law

Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

Article I, Section 12 of the Florida Constitution

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures, and against the unreasonable interception of private communications by any means, shall not be violated. No warrant shall be issued except upon probable cause, supported by affidavit, particularly describing the place or places to be searched, the person or persons, thing or things to be seized, the communication to be intercepted, and the nature of evidence to be obtained. This right shall be construed in conformity with the 4th Amendment to the United States Constitution, as interpreted by the United States Supreme Court. Articles or information obtained in violation of this right shall not be admissible in evidence if such articles or information would be inadmissible under decisions of the United States Supreme Court construing the 4th Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

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Relevant Precedents

Katz v. United States (1967)

Charles Katz used a public pay-phone booth to place bets. The FBI eavesdropped on Katz’s conversation through a device attached to the outside of the phone booth. Katz was convicted based on the recordings of his conversations. The Supreme Court overturned his conviction, holding that the government’s surveillance “violated the privacy upon which he justifiably relied” and so was a “search and seizure” under the Fourth Amendment. Physical intrusion is not necessary to trigger a Fourth Amendment violation; any government activity that infringes a person’s reasonable expectation of privacy is unconstitutional unless the police obtain a search warrant based on a showing of probable cause.

United States v. Place (1983)

An air traveler’s luggage was subjected to a “sniff test” by a trained narcotics-detection dog. In Place, the Court held that this procedure was not a Fourth Amendment search. The Court reasoned that canine sniffs are unique in that they detect only the presence or absence of illegal narcotics; they reveal nothing about a person’s private life in which he or she has a legitimate expectation of privacy. The “sniff test” was also far less intrusive than, say, an officer’s rummaging through Place’s belongings.

Indianapolis v. Edmond (2000)

In Edmond, the Court declared unconstitutional a highway-checkpoint program whose primary purpose was the detection of illegal narcotics. Such a program, the Court reasoned, cannot exist merely to detect ordinary criminal wrongdoing. The vehicle of each person stopped by Indianapolis policemen at the checkpoint was sniffed by a trained drug-detection dog. The Court in Edmond reaffirmed the general compatibility of dog sniffs with the Fourth Amendment’s evidentiary requirements, though the sniffs were initiated here in pursuit of an unconstitutional end.

Kyllo v. United States (2001)

Police suspected that Danny Kyllo was using his home to grow marijuana, and they used a thermal-imaging device to check whether his house was hotter than other houses on the block–which would suggest that he was using heat lamps to grow marijuana. Heat patterns detected were consistent with those of indoor marijuana labs. After receiving a warrant, police searched Kyllo’s home and found marijuana, as expected. Kyllo was arrested. The Supreme Court ultimately held that use of the thermal-imaging device was a Fourth Amendment search that must be preceded by a warrant. The Court explained that the use of sense-enhancing technology to obtain information about the inside of one’s home that could not otherwise be obtained without physical intrusion is a Fourth Amendment search, at least when the technology at issue is not widely used by the public. “[I]n the sanctity of the home, all details are intimate details.”

Illinois v. Caballes (2005)

Roy Caballes was stopped by an Illinois state trooper for speeding on an highway. A second trooper overheard the report and rushed to the scene with a narcotics-detection dog. The dog circled Caballes’ car as the first trooper issued a warning ticket, and it signalled that drugs were present in the car. The officers then searched the trunk and found marijuana. Caballes was arrested. The Supreme Court held that the troopers’ actions did not violate the Fourth Amendment. A “sniff test” would have transformed the lawful traffic stop into a constitutional violation had it infringed Caballes’ constitutionally protected privacy interests. But as previous cases have recognized, a dog sniff reveals only the presence or absence of contraband, in which there can be no legitimate privacy interest. Kyllo does not present a problem for this case; thermal-imaging technology creates Fourth Amendment problems because it is capable of providing details about lawful activity within the sanctity of one’s home.

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Justice Voting History

This chart could help with predicting the outcome of the case and how the Justices will vote. But be
careful: a lot will depend on the facts of this case and not how someone has voted in the past. [Note: the Justices are listed in order of seniority with the Chief Justice first.]

Indianapolis v. Edmond (2000) Kyllo v. United States (2001) Illinois v. Caballes (2005)
Roberts Not yet on Court Not yet on Court Not yet on Court
Scalia C NC C
Kennedy NC C C
Thomas C NC C
Ginsburg NC NC NC
Breyer NC NC C
Alito Not yet on Court Not yet on Court Not yet on Court
Sotomayor Not yet on Court Not yet on Court Not yet on Court
Kagan Not yet on Court Not yet on Court Not yet on Court
C The search was constitutional.
NC The search was unconstitutional.
Not yet on Court The Justice was not yet on the Court when the case was decided.

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The Arguments

Florida (Petitioner)

The State of Florida argues that a dog sniff conducted outside of a home is not a Fourth Amendment search; therefore, a warrant was not needed to conduct the sniff test at issue, and the marijuana evidence should be admitted in Jardines’ criminal trial. Drug-detection dogs are trained to signal only the presence of illegal drugs. They do not infringe an individual’s reasonable expectation of privacy (we have no right to expect that our illegal behavior will not eventually be detected). For this reason, it is not constitutionally significant that the sniff occurred outside Jardines’ home. Furthermore, dogs are a critically important law-enforcement tool. The Court should make clear that dog sniffs are not Fourth Amendment searches under any circumstances so that the police will not be unduly burdened  in their discovery of illegal narcotics.

Jardines (Respondent)

Joelis Jardines argues that a dog sniff conducted outside of a home, even if it only detects the presence or absence of illegal substances, is a Fourth Amendment search requiring a warrant based on probable cause. Government activity that reveals anything an individual wishes to keep private within his or her home violates that person’s reasonable expectation of privacy. The logic of prior Court decisions on dog sniffs does not extend to the home, so Place (airplane), Edmond (car), and Caballes (car) are no obstacle. Florida’s proposed rule would allow the police to use drug-detection dogs on any person in public, or outside any building, at any time and for any reason. It also creates an incentive for law-enforcement officials to develop more and more searching technologies to gather information on the interior of private dwellings, as long as those technologies detect only the presence or absence of contraband.

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Oral Arguments

Coming soon.

The Court’s Opinion

Coming Soon

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Blog Topics

1. Write the Opinion – Florida v. Jardines Badge (200 points)

Pretend you are Justices of the Supreme Court. Vote as a class on how Florida v. Jardines should be decided, and write an opinion discussing how this case should be resolved. If not everyone agrees, write concurring and dissenting opinions to explore all of your different understandings of the case. (Concurrences are written when two or more Justices agree on the final outcome, but not the way it was reached; dissents are written when two or more Justices disagree on the outcome.) Each opinion should be at least 250 words and reference the text of the Fourth Amendment and at least three of the cases listed in the Relevant Precedents section.

2. Friend of the Court – Amicus Brief Badge (150 points)

Pretend that you are a lawyer and you represent a group that either supports or opposes the use of drug-detection dogs as a law-enforcement tool. Write a 200 word Amicus (“Friend of the Court”) Brief, making a compelling case for your client’s interests. The goal of an amicus brief is to provide information to the Court about the implications of its decision beyond the effect it will have on today’s litigants.  Be sure to include case citations, and make a strong policy argument about why your side should win.

3. Who Should Decide? – Separation of Powers Badge (50 points)

In oral argument in last year’s Fourth Amendment case dealing with GPS technology (U.S. v. Jones), Justice Scalia asked, “Why isn’t this precisely the precisely the kind of problem that you should rely upon legislatures to take care of?” His point was that the Supreme Court reads the Fourth Amendment, then creates rules and standards to apply it to real-world cases, and then follows its prior guidance when those cases arise, with no input from the democratically elected branches of government on how to adapt to changed circumstances. Should we want Congress to legislate the standards that guide judges in deciding Fourth Amendment cases? Should we rely on Congress to say what new technologies and procedures may not be used for law enforcement, or just leave that up to judges? Write a blog post of at least 150 words exploring this issue.

4. Slippery Slope? – Constitutional Law Badge (50 points)

According to Jardines’ lawyer, if police can use a drug-detection dog outside of a suspected house growing drugs without a warrant, they can walk such a dog up and down the halls of schools, along city streets, and throughout suburban neighborhoods. Does it seem to be true that if the Court rules in favor of Florida, the police will be free to conduct “sniff tests” on any person in public, or outside any building, at any time and for any reason? If so, should the Court take these consequences into account and rule in favor of Jardines even if the State of Florida appears to have the better argument in this case? Write a blog post of at least 150 words exploring this issue.

5. Reprehensible Enough? – Criminal Justice Badge (50 points)

In Katz v. U.S. (1967), the Court ruled that a person whose illegal activity was detected through a phone-booth wiretap could not be prosecuted because of his understandable expectation that his conversation would remain private. If this is so for “illegal” conversations in public places, it seems to be even more true for those that take place in the home (“a man’s home is his castle”). So there are some constitutional limits to the detection of illegality inside the home. Yet if a well-trained dog could reliably signal to police that mass murder had recently occurred inside a private dwelling, we would probably think this should be an adequate basis to obtain a search warrant so the investigation could begin immediately, even if no human could have made the critical inference through his or her own senses. When does a homebound crime become so serious that police should be able to expose it even if the wrongdoer expects (foolishly or not) that his or her activity will remain private? On which side of the line does homegrown marijuana fall? Is this even a sound way to approach Florida v. Jardines? Write a blog post of at least 150 words exploring this issue.

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Additional Resources

  • Full opinion of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
  • Docket information at the Supreme Court:  This page will be updated as more briefs are filed.
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The Harlan Institute

Learn more about the Harlan Institute.