Imagine you are sitting in your home enjoying some television when all of a sudden you see a group of policemen stroll down the street with a K-9 unit. This specialized drug hunter barks in the direction of your house indicating there may be illegal substances in your dwelling. The police have the right to break down the door and search your home because that may now be considered probable cause. The United States Supreme Court heard two cases back to back, Florida v. Jardines and Florida v. Harris, that will decide just that.
The first case, Florida v. Jardines, arose when Florida police had a hunch that a particular house was growing marijuana. They did not have enough evidence to obtain a legal search warrant so they decided to bring a drug dog to the front door and see what happened. The dog indicated the presence of an illegal substance and the police deemed that probable cause to search the home.
The second case, Florida v. Harris, deals will how effective K-9 searches are and whether records must be kept to indicate a particular dog’s track record. The court will either agree with the Florida Supreme Court decision that some ‘minimum efficiency standards’ should be in place or rule that police need not keep any records.
These two cases are extremely dangerous to every American’s Constitutional rights. Without a warrant or probable cause, the 4th Amendment protects them from ‘unreasonable searches and seizures’. Having K-9’s indicate the presence of an illegal substance should not be considered probable cause. This is what I like to call and many fellow Americans as well, as an unconstitutional search. Fortunately, the Supreme Court has previously recognized Americans’ homes as having special privacy protections. Precedent does suggest that the court will rule against Florida, but remains unclear in establishing standards for police dogs.
In a worst case scenario, if both cases are decided in favor of the police, what is to stop police forces across the country from making unannounced patrols in neighborhoods? How reliable are these dogs, especially when no standards are established? These K-9’s are rewarded every time they indicate a hunch. With no records kept, dogs may be inclined to bark in front of any home and apartment door an officer brings them to, eroding the 4th Amendment and setting the precedent for further erosion.