MIAMI – Miami-Dade police detectives conducted an unlawful search then they used a drug-sniffing dog at the front door of a suspected marijuana grow house without getting a search warrant, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.

Civil libertarians and defense lawyers are hailing the decision in Florida vs. Jardines, which curbs the use of police dogs in front of homes.

“The privacy rights of a homeowner are special,” said Miami-Dade Assistant Public Defender Howard K. Blumberg, who represented Joelis Jardines, the Miami man at the center of the case. “It sends a message to police that when you’re talking about doing a search on a home, you generally need a warrant before you invade privacy rights.”

Florida law enforcement, however, is not thrilled with the decision. In recent years, hydroponic marijuana labs have proliferated in South Florida, as has violence associated with the trade.

The decision does not mean drug-sniffing dogs cannot be used — but handlers first must build up enough evidence to get a search warrant signed by a judge.

“Although we are disappointed in today’s Supreme Court decision, utilizing a drug-sniffing dog was only one tool in the law enforcements arsenal to combat hydroponic labs,” Miami-Dade Police Director J.D. Patterson said.

Police will continue to aggressively pursue the labs, Patterson said.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision upheld a Florida Supreme Court opinion which ruled that Miami-Dade officers violated Jardines’ right to privacy in December 2006 when they used a chocolate labrador named Franky to sniff out drugs at his South Miami-Dade home.

Miami-Dade Detective William Pedraja zeroed in on Jardines’ house after catching a tip from the “CrimeStoppers” hotline. A month later, detectives and federal agents brought Franky to Jardines’ front door, and the drug detection dog alerted his handler to the smell of marijuana emanating from the house.

Detectives secured a search warrant, found the illegal plants and Jardines — who tried to escape the back of the home — was arrested for marijuana trafficking. A Miami-Dade judge threw out the evidence of the marijuana, ruling that the search was unlawful.