Florida v. Jardines: A Shortsighted View of the Fourth Amendment

drug dog

Image by West Midlands Police on Flickr CC-BY

In Florida v. Jardines, the United States Supreme Court reinforces a Fourth Amendment jurisprudential standard that is confusing, unable to adapt, and risks arbitrary searches as technology improves. Modern governmental functions pose a risk to citizen privacy. Many of the current issues with Fourth Amendment jurisprudence can be traced to one case.

In Katz v. United States, the Court changed the paradigm of Fourth Amendment jurisprudence by moving from a property-based standard to a privacy-based one. Although much is to be heralded by this shift, it has proven inadequate in recent years. Rather than continue to apply Katz, the Court has recently supplemented Katz’s privacy-based standard with a traditional property-based standard, allowing the tests to coexist.

A recent case, Florida v. Jardines, uses this bifurcated approach, using the older property-based conception of a search while leaving open the option to hold on privacy grounds when there is no physical intrusion. In Jardines, a detective received a tip that marijuana was being grown at Joelis Jardines’s home. After a brief surveillance of the home, detectives used a drug-sniffing dog to search the front porch. The dog, trained to sit at the strongest source of an odor, sat at the base of the front door on the porch of Mr. Jardines’s home. The detectives used this information to obtain a warrant, which led to Mr. Jardines’s arrest and subsequent discovery of marijuana plants in the home.

At trial, Jardines successfully moved to suppress the marijuana plants because the investigation was considered an unreasonable search. This ruling was reversed by the Third District Court of Appeal. The Florida Supreme Court then quashed the reversal by the Third District Court of Appeal, reinstated the trial court’s ruling, and held the use of the drug-sniffing dog was a Fourth Amendment search.

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Kyle Nelson, Florida v. Jardines: A Shortsighted View of the Fourth Amendment, 49 Gonz. L. Rev. 415 (2014).

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