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Florida v. Jardines

Concerning the Fourth Amendment Implications of a Police Dog Sniff at the Front Door of a Suspect's Home

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  • U.S. Supreme Court Tosses Out North Carolina Lifetime GPS Tracking: Today the U.S. Supreme Court issued a per curium opinion vacating the decision of the North Carolina Supreme Court in Grady v. North Carolina. Grady challenged a court order requiring a "satellite-based [GPS] monitoring program for the duration of his natural life." The North Carolina court ruled that this was not a Fourth Amendment search. However, the U.S. Supreme Court tossed that ruling aside, finding it contrary to recent decisions in United States v. Jones and Florida v. Jardines. EPIC filed an amicus brief in Jones, joined by many leading technical experts and legal scholars. The Court held in that case that continuous GPS tracking constituted a search. (Mar. 30, 2015)
  • Supreme Court Lets Stand Fourth Amendment Protections At the Border: This week the Supreme Court declined to review the decision of the Ninth Circuit in United States v. Cotterman, leaving in place expanded Fourth Amendment protections for searches occurring at the U.S. border. In Cotterman, the federal appeals court held that the Fourth Amendment requires a border agent to have reasonable suspicion before using forensic tools to search laptops, cameras, and other digital devices. The court emphasized that the "comprehensive and intrusive nature of the forensic examination" is the key factor in triggering greater Fourth Amendment scrutiny. EPIC has previously argued that advanced traveler screening methods should only be employed subject to privacy protections. For more information, see EPIC: Traveler Privacy, EPIC: Florida v. Jardines, and EPIC: Amicus Curiae briefs. (Jan. 15, 2014)
  • Supreme Court Holds Dog Sniff at Doorway is a Search: The Supreme Court ruled today in Florida v. Jardines that the use of a drug-sniffing dog to investigate the front door of a home was a “search” within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. “That the officers learned what they learned only by physically intruding on Jardines’ property to gather evidence is enough to establish that a search occurred,” Justice Scalia concluded. Justice Kagan, joined by Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor, wrote a concurrence that explained that the case could have also been resolved by examining Jardines’ privacy interests. In Justice Kagan’s view, the use of device “not in general public use” to “explore the details of the home” violates a reasonable expectation of privacy and is therefore a search. EPIC filed an amicus brief in a related Supreme Court case, decide earlier this year. For more information, see EPIC: Florida v. Jardines and EPIC: Florida v. Harris. (Mar. 26, 2013)
  • Supreme Court to Hear Case About Enhanced Search Techniques: The US Supreme Court has decided to review Florida v. Jardines, a case that addresses whether a dog sniff at the front door of a home is a search that requires probable cause. This case follows Illinois v. Caballes, a 2005 case in which the Court held that a dog sniff around a car during a routine traffic stop was not a search. The Florida Supreme Court ruled that Caballes was inapplicable in the case, and that a dog sniff in front of a home is a Fourth Amendment search. This case also implicates the government's use of "enhanced" investigative techniques that are designed to detect contraband. Because these techniques are imperfect and also allow the government to search for material that is not illegal, EPIC has argued that a Fourth Amendment probable cause standard should apply. For more information, see EPIC: EPIC v. DHS (Airport Body Scanners). (Jan. 6, 2012)

Question Presented

  • (1) Whether a dog sniff at the front door of a suspected grow house by a trained narcotics detection dog is a Fourth Amendment search requiring probable cause.


The United States Supreme Court will review a recent Florida Supreme Court decision, Jardines v. State, which held that the use of a drug-sniffing dog around the home is search requiring probable cause under the Fourth Amendment. The Florida Supreme Court declined to extend the reasoning of a 2005 US Supreme Court decision, Illinois v. Caballes, which held that similar use of a drug-sniffing dog around an automobile was not a search. The US Supreme Court also previously held that a dog-sniff was not a search in the airport. The Court must consider in this case whether its previous "dog-sniff" decisions apply equally in the context of the home, which has traditionally enjoyed heightened Fourth Amendment protections.

The Court's dog-sniff jurisprudence derives from a 1980s case, United States v. Place, in which the DEA detained a man at an airport and allowed a trained narcotics dog to perform a "sniff test" on his luggage. The Majority Opinion held that a "brief seizure" of the man's luggage was appropriate, but that the officers could not conduct a full "search" without probable cause. The Court held that the "sniff test" at issue was not a "search" under the Fourth Amendment because it did not involve opening or otherwise exposing non-contraband to public view, and it was specifically designed to reveal the presence of contraband. The Court held that a dog-sniff was sui generis, but the majority opinion raises the question of what other investigatory techniques might not constitute a Fourth Amendment "search."

In Illinois v. Caballes, the US Supreme Court again upheld the use of a dog sniff test, but this time in the context of an automobile search. The Majority Opinion reinforced the Court's conclusion in Place, that an investigatory technique that only reveals illegal conduct is not a "search" under the Fourth Amendment because an individual has no reasonable expectation of privacy in such conduct. Justice Souter wrote a dissenting opinion and argued that the sui generis treatment of the dog sniff test in Place was based on the faulty assumption that the sniff test was error free and thus did not expose legal conduct or property. Justice Souter's argument did not persuade a majority of the justices in the automobile context, but it remains to be seen whether the current Court can be persuaded that a sniff test of a home crosses an important Fourth Amendment line.

Justice Scalia's Majority Opinion - Jones Trespass Test

On March 26, 2013, the Court issued its opinion in Florida v. Jardines and held that "the government's use of trained police dogs to investigate the home and its immediate surroundings is a 'search' within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment." Justice Scalia delivered the Opinion of the Court, which was joined by Justices Thomas, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan. Justice Scalia's opinion reiterated that, as a "simple baseline," a Fourth Amendment search occurs whenever the "Government obtains information by physically intruding on persons, houses, papers, or effects." In this case, he found that Detective Bartlet conducted a "search" when he approached the defendant's house with a trained drug-detection dog because he (1) entered a constitutionally protected area and (2) exceeded the scope of the public license to act in that area with (3) the intent to conduct an investigation. Justice Scalia distinguished this search from a traditional "knock and talk" because approaching a house to speak with the owner does not exceed the "scope of the license - express or implied." He noted that complying with the terms of the traditional "invitation doe snot require fine-grained legal knowledge: it is generally manged without incident by the Nation's Girl Scouts and trick-or-treaters." Justice Scalia's opinion ultimately relies on his finding that "no one is impliedly invited to enter the protected premises of the home in order to do nothing but conduct a search."

Justice Kagan's Concurrence - Kyllo 2.0

Justice Kagan wrote a separate concurring opinion, joined by Justces Ginsburg and Sotomayor, to stress that she could also have decided this case based on a violation of defendant's "reasonable expectation of privacy." Specifically, she found that "a simple analogy clinches this case . . . . A stranger comes to the front door of your home carrying super-high-powered binoculars," and "stands on your porch and uses the binoculars to peer through your windows, into your home's furthest corners." As a result of this "uncommon behavior," he manages to "learn details of your life you disclose to no one." The Jardines case presents the same issue, and Justice Kagan argued that the stranger has committed both a trespass and a violation of the home owner's reasonable expectation of privacy. Specifically, Justice Kagan noted that the Court resolved this issue in Kyllo v. United States, 533 U.S. 27 (2001), when they held that police officers use of a thermal-imaging device to detect heat emanating from a private home was a "search" under the Fourth Amendment.

EPIC's Interest in Florida v. Jardines

EPIC has argued in the past that the Fourth Amendment probable cause standard should apply in cases where the government uses "enhanced" investigative techniques that are designed to detect contraband, but are nevertheless imperfect and likely to lead to the exposure of non-contraband and legal conduct.

Legal Documents

Supreme Court


Florida Supreme Court


Supreme Court Precedent

  • Illinois v. Caballes, 543 U.S. 405 (2005).
  • Kyllo v. United States, 533 U.S. 27 (2001).
  • City of Indianapolis v. Edmond, 531 U.S. 32 (2000).
  • United States v. Jacobsen, 466 U.S. 109 (1984)
  • United States v. Place, 462 U.S. 696 (1983).
  • Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968).
  • Camara v. Mun. Court of City & Cnty. of S.F., 387 U.S. 523 (1967).

Circuit Court Opinions on Sui Generis Searches

  • United States v. Coyler, 878 F.2d 479 (D.C. Cir. 1989).

Law Review Articles and Books

  • Jane Yakowitz Bambauer, How the War on Drugs Distorts Privacy Law, 64 Stan. L. Rev. Online 131 (2012).
  • Jeffrey Rosen, The Deciders: The Future of Privacy and Free Speech in the Age of Facebook and Google, 80 Fordham L. Rev. 1525 (2012).
  • L. Song Richardson, Police Efficiency and the Fourth Amendment, 87 Ind. L. J. 1143 (2012).
  • NOTE, Jessica Alfano, Interior-Vehicle Sniffs: Reining in the Leash on Drug-dog Sniffs and Searching for the "Search" That Courts Have Yet to Find, 46 New Eng. L. Rev. 519 (2012).
  • Jeff Weiner, Police K09's and the Constitution: What Every Lawyer and Judge Should KNow, 36 APR Champion 22 (April, 2012).
  • Joshua S. Levy, Towards A Brighter Fourth Amendment: Privacy and Technological Change, 16 Va. J.L. & Tech. 499, 501 (2011).
  • Russell D. Covey, Pervasive Surveillance and the Future of the Fourth Amendment, 80 Miss. L. J. 1289 (2011).
  • COMMENT, Robyn Burrows, Judicial Confusion and the Digital Drug Dog Sniff: Pragmatic Solutions Permitting Warrantless Hashing of Known Illegal Files, 19 Geo. Mason L. Rev. 255 (2011).
  • COMMENT, Kristin M. Barone, Through The Looking Glass of the Fourth Amendment: The Unintended Consequences of Search Reform Leads to a Technological Erosion of Security in the Home, 13 Loy. J. Pub. Int. L. 159 (2011).
  • Abigail Brown, Something Smells Afoul: An Analysis of the End of a District Court Split, 36 Nova L. Rev. 201 (2011).
  • Orin Kerr, Applying the Fourth Amendment to the Internet: A General Approach, 62 Stanford Law Review 1005-1049 (2010).
  • Samantha Trepel, Digital Searches, General Warrants, and the Case for the Courts, 10 Yale J. L. & Tech. 120 (2007).
  • Richard P. Salgado, Fourth Amendment Search and the Power of the Hash, 119 Harv. L. Rev. F. 38 (2006).
  • Michael Bell, Caballes, Place, and Economic Rin-Tin-Tincentives the Effect of Canine Sniff Jurisprudence on the Demand for and Development of Search Technology, 72 Brook. L. Rev. 279 (2006).
  • Cecil J. Hunt II, Calling in the Dogs: Suspicionless Sniff Searches and Reasonable Expectations of Privacy, 56 Case W. Res. L. Rev. 285 (2005).
  • Orin S. Kerr, Searches and Seizures in a Digital World, 119 Harv. L. Rev. 531 (2005).
  • Orin S. Kerr, Digital Evidence and the New Criminal Procedure, 105 Colom. L. Rev. 279 (2005).
  • John M. Junker, The Structure of the Fourth Amendment: The Scope of Protection, 79 J. Crim. L. & Criminology 1105 (1989).
  • George Mohay et al., Computer and Intrusion Forensics (2003).
  • IIT Research Institute, Independent Review of the Carnivore System - Final Report (2000).

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