Is a dog sniff at the front door a search?

The SC’s term starts tomorrow and one very interesting case they will decide, oral argument date listed, is;

Issue: 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 Florida SC ruled such a sniff violates the 4th AM., which of course gave the SC federal question jurisdiction.

Sure, courts have dealt with car sniffs, sniffs in school’s (Horton v. Goosecreek) from memory, is an early case.

The FL SC decision is long, internal citation.

At issue is not that a sniff is a search, but since it involves the closeness and proximity, surely within any Curtilage of the home, should the 4th offer more protection than say a warrantless sniff of a detained motorist’s car?

This will be an interesting ruling. My bet, the FL SC will be reversed.

I’m pretty sure the Supremes will overturn as well. The most recent decisions seem to be going the way of “If we can detect it in any way from outside your house, the 4th doesn’t apply.”

I think that is wrong, mind you, but I’m sure that’s the way they will go.

My knee-jerk, uninformed opinion is that, assuming your door isn’t out by the street, taking a dog onto your property to sniff your door would be an unreasonable search. Can’t say much about how the court will rule. How does this compare to that case with the IR cameras and the grow house?

If a person has a door, it’s an open invitation for anybody to ask for entering ( with or without a dog ) - I don’t see a problem there.
Also if it can be smelled outside then it is in public and gives a probable cause. - I don’t see a problem there. ( especially if the dog isn’t particularly encouraged to take a sniff, but it does it by its own initiative. )

I don’t know anything about U.S. law…

I think it should be considered a search, just as observing non-visible infrared radiation was.

There’s another reason why it shouldn’t be allowed: as The Chaser showed, a drug dog will still go after things that will attract any other dog. You shouldn’t have to fear a SWAT team kicking down your door just because you cooked a steak for lunch.

Does a homeowner have to allow access to a door? If I surround my property with a stone wall and have a locked gate with buzzer/intercom am I breaking any laws? Officer Jones buzzes, identifies himself over the intercom, and I walk down my driveway to speak with him through the gate. Cool? (Assume no warrant)

I’m gonna go ahead and assume also that the Supremes will decide that sniff searches are okay; you don’t have a privacy interest in the odors wafting from your property.

kayaker, sure, you’d be fine, assuming your residential area allows the stone walls and gates and such. You don’t necessarily have to allow anyone to walk up to your front door. People in gated homes aren’t usually the ones running meth labs, though.

At what point does one enter a house? Let’s say I have a large enclosed porch with a screen door-are the police allowed to open that door without asking to get to the inner door?

edited to add-said screen door has a lockable latch.

If you were going to do this, I think it would be necessary to put some form of doorbell or intercom beyond that outer door. Otherwise it could be considered a reasonable assumption that Joe Random is allowed to walk onto the porch without permission, just so he can knock on your front door.

I’d argue that it is a search.

The Supreme court has previously ruled that a dog sniff outside a car is NOT a search and they base the decision on the fact that the only thing the dog would alert is illegal activity. I don’t really agree that should be the justification but I do understand that being out in public offers you less 4th Amendment protection than the privacy of your home.

Some in this thread have argued that if you can smell it outside the home, it’s fair game. I’d argue that a dog is a tool used by the department specifically to search for something that wouldn’t be readily apparent to the nose of a human. In the same way the Supreme Court has previously struck down the ability of police to use heat scanners on your house, so too should they strike this down.

Finally, it’s a stretch, but I’d also say that the smells escaping your house can also be seen as like a garbage situation. Put the garbage out by the curb? You’re throwing it away and it’s fair game. If it’s still right by your house? It may be right there out in the open, but it’s still yours and looking through that is a search.

This is the basic gravaman here. Does entering the Curtilage (research that term) OR the porch WITH a drug dog constitute a search.

There is nothing illegal about police knocking on a door wanting to ask questions to a occupant, unless NO TRESPASSING signs are up, and that would inlcude the police if the sign says so.

Even if the person was under outside investigation, a so called “Knock and talk”, is permissable, state law specific of course.

In a case called Santana, (SC), they ruled that a “doortep” is a public place, and does not require a Home arrest warrant.

So your doorstep may be a public place, but the question presented here is if a sniffer dog accompanies police to that doorstep, does that change the encounter to demand a warrant?

Not reasonable. If you point out that someone in the house might not hear you if you knocked on the screen door, I’ll just point out the same is true if someone knocks on the front door and someone is at the far end of the house, upstairs, or in the basement.

Here is the exact text of the relevant constitutional amendment, #IV:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Surely the word “home” cannot reasonably be intepreted to mean “interior
of their dwelling”, thus leaving a constable free to, say, dig up anyone’s yard
any time he damn pleases, without a warrant.

The gray area might arise if Rover seems to sniff something from the public
side of the property line. I am not sure how that might differ in principle from
warrantless arial surviellance, which I believe is legal.

TEXTUALLY, yes, but the 4th AM protects people, not places. If a home is invaded in violation of the 4th, the PERSON is protected from that, not the home.

This is called the “Open Fields” doctrine.

"Persons, houses, papers and effects " strikes me as considerably more expansive
than merely “people”.

If we could place “caught” before “running” I’d agree.:wink:

Yes, but the SC has grouped them, you can key in the phrase “The 4th Amendment protects people, not places”, one hit may be Katz. v. United States, which I believe started it all, as the 4th AM did not become applicable to the states until 1949, the exclusionary rule, 1961.

No, but it does mean a constable can walk into your (front) yard any time he pleases without a warrant. The test is whether the police officer is where a member of the general public could legally be. If your front yard is gated and locked, neither the public nor the police can enter without a warrant or an exception.

Thus, the issue here is whether the addition of the dog makes the entry an unreasonable search. I say no, because SCOTUS has already decided that a drug sniff can reveal nothing other than the presence of narcotics (though they are apparently totally wrong about that as a factual matter).

Re posts by lawbuff and Really Not All That Bright if the constable may stroll
through any of my property at will, with or without a dog, then there are legalistic
nuances here which I just don’t get.

While an officer has a technical right to do it, any non official act will be determined to be a search, period, as it serves no legitimate purpose and the courts may see that as a “If I am allowed on the property like everyone else, sooner or later I will notice a violation of law” type of reasoning.

A search occurs when a persons “Expectation of privacy” has been violated.

An officer need not be at that moment looking for any violation of law, etc., however, they also can not remain on property “at will”?.

I remember a case where 2 cops went to a door, thinking there was drugs inside, then knocked, when the person SLIGHTY opened the door to prevent a look see in, the officer pushed it more, and saw drugs, he was arrested, but the court ruled that pushing the door open to peak inside was a violation of privacy and the evidence was thrown out.

I have another case similar on what IS a search, I will try to find it.