January 3, 2012

Supreme Court asked to ponder drug dog's sniff

Curt Anderson / The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

A Dec. 6, 2011, photo of Miami-Dade retired narcotics canine Franky, whose super-sensitive nose is at the heart of a question being put to the U.S. Supreme Court.

AP

That sniff was used to get a search warrant from a judge. The house was searched and its lone occupant, Joelis Jardines, was arrested trying to escape out the back door. Officers pulled 179 live marijuana plants from the house, with an estimated street value of more than $700,000.

Jardines, now 39, was charged with marijuana trafficking and grand theft for stealing electricity needed to run the highly sophisticated operation. He pleaded not guilty and his attorney challenged the search, claiming Franky's sniff outside the front door was an unconstitutional law enforcement intrusion into the home.

The trial judge agreed and threw out the evidence seized in the search, but that was reversed by an intermediate appeals court. In April a divided Florida Supreme Court sided with the original judge.

In its petition to the U.S. Supreme Court, state lawyers argue that the Florida Supreme Court's decision conflicts with numerous previous rulings that a dog sniff is not a search.

"A dog sniff of a house reveals only that the house contains drugs, not any other private information about the house or the persons in it," wrote Carolyn Snurkowski, Florida associate deputy attorney general. "A person has no reasonable expectation of privacy in illegal drugs."

The criminal case against Jardines is on hold until the question involving Franky's nose is settled. Meanwhile, Jardines is out on bail following a 2010 arrest for alleged armed robbery and aggravated assault. He pleaded not guilty in that one, as well, and trial is set for Feb. 21.

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