Post-Court Panel Discusses Dog-Sniff Cases

November 2, 2012 —

It’s not often that “the most important entity” in a Supreme Court case happens to be a dog. But a pair of cases heard by the Court on October 31 — Florida v. Jardines and Florida v. Harris — featured two of them: Franky, a chocolate Lab, and Aldo, a German Shepherd, both trained to detect drugs.  

“The Florida Supreme Court held that the dog sniff of the home was a search within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment, and probable cause was required before the police could use a dog that way,” explained Professor Paul Butler, introducing the question of whether Franky’s “alert” at the front door of a house in Jardines constituted a government “search.”

Harris, meanwhile, presented the separate question of what probable cause is; specifically, whether an “alert” by Aldo at the passenger door of a truck was sufficient to establish it. “There are no uniform certification standards for dogs, and the Florida court was very concerned about that,” Butler said.

Guests at the panel included some of the very people who had argued the cases just hours before, including Howard Blumberg, counsel for Joelis Jardines, and Glen Gifford, counsel for Clayton Harris. Brian Schmalzbach, who was among the attorneys representing Florida, and Dan Schweitzer, Supreme Court counsel at the National Association of Attorneys General, also appeared on the panel.

“There was language in the [Florida Supreme Court Harris] opinion that you could construe it as a constitutional code of canine conduct,” Gifford said. “Our perspective would suggest that the holding is narrow; that the state must produce more evidence than simply the fact of training and certification to demonstrate the dog is reliable enough[.]”

The panel discussion can be viewed below and by clicking here.