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High court to hear drug-sniffing dog case

Jan. 7, 2012 at 5:00 PM

WASHINGTON, Jan. 7 (UPI) -- The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to rule whether police can use drug-sniffing dogs to detect marijuana at the door of a home.

Florida Supreme Court justices had ruled using a drug-sniffing dog at the front door of a house or an apartment to detect marijuana without evidence of criminal activity violates the Fourth Amendment, which protects against "unreasonable searches," the Los Angeles Times reported.

Based on this finding, the Florida high court overturned a Miami man's conviction for growing marijuana in his home.

Acting on a tip, police officers brought a drug-sniffing dog to the home of Joelis Jardines to determine whether he was growing marijuana in his house. The dog sat down as he was trained to do if he detects the odor of marijuana.

Police used this to obtain a search warrant for Jardines' home, where they found 179 marijuana plants inside.

State justices threw out the evidence, saying they were unwilling to permit "dog sniff tests … at the home of any citizen" unless the police had probable cause of criminal activity.

But Florida's lawyers say a dog's sniffing for drugs is not a "search."

"Because a dog's alert tells the officer one thing, and one thing only -- that the house contains illegal drugs -- it cannot constitute a search," said Florida's state attorneys.

The U.S. Supreme Court said Friday it would hear the case of Florida vs. Jardines in April with a ruling possible in late June.

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