Magazine article Law & Order

Recent Supreme Court Cases

Magazine article Law & Order

Recent Supreme Court Cases

Article excerpt

From K9 searches to DNA samples

This article is a follow-up to the Supreme Court update published in this column earlier this year. Here are the remaining USSC decisions that pertain to law enforcement.

Florida v. Jardines, 569 U.S. (2013)

Offcers from the Miami-Dade Police Department and the DEA received a tip that Joelis Jardines was growing marijuana inside his home. After a short period of surveillance, two Miami-Dade offcers approached the front door of Jardines' house with a drug detection canine. At this point, the offcers did not have probable cause. As they approached the front porch, the dog began to alert to the presence of narcotics and began to focus on the area where the scent was strongest-the front door. Based on the tip and dog alert, a search warrant was obtained and executed later that day.

Jardines was home during the search warrant execution and was arrested and charged with traffcking marijuana. Prior to his trial, Jardines argued that the use of the scent detection canine near the front door of his single-family home was a search without probable cause or a warrant and that the resulting search warrant and evidence should be suppressed.

The trial court agreed, ruling that the use of the canine was a search under the Fourth Amendment. Since the State had conceded that the offcers lacked probable cause at the time the dog was taken to the front door, the trial court held the search to be unreasonable. All downstream evidence was suppressed and the government appealed all the way to the United States Supreme Court.

In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the use of the drug detection canine in this case was indeed a search under the Fourth Amendment. The Court followed closely the reasoning it used last term in United States v. Jones, 565 U.S. (2012) in which the Court held that the attachment of a GPS device to a vehicle was a search under the "physical intrusion upon a constitutionally protected area" prong of the Fourth Amendment defnition of a search.

In Jardines, offcers physically intruded upon another constitutionally protected area-the curtilage of the home-with the intent to gather information. And, just as in Jones, the Court declined to address the second prong of the search inquiry-whether there was an intrusion upon a reasonable expectation of privacy. In both Jones and Jardines, the Court did not rule on the reasonableness of the warrantless law enforcement action, deferring that judgment instead to the lower courts.

This case does not change the longstanding understanding that a law enforcement offcer may lawfully approach a residence by using a common pathway to the front door in order to speak with an occupant and the offcer need not have any particular factual justifcation for doing so. The reasoning is simple-any non-law enforcement individual may lawfully do the same thing. It is only when a law enforcement offcer brings with him a specialized investigative tool-i.e., a drug detection canine-that the offcer has intruded on Fourth Amendment interests.

Missouri v. McNeely, 569 U.S. (2013)

Tyler McNeely was stopped for a traffc offense and subsequently arrested for driving under the infuence of alcohol. He refused to submit to a mandatory breath test under state law. The arresting offcer transported McNeely to a local hospital where McNeely refused to submit to a blood test. The offcer then ordered the nurse to draw blood from McNeely and his blood was taken against his will. There was no search warrant.

During his trial, McNeely argued that the warrantless, non-consensual blood draw was an unreasonable search under the Fourth Amendment. The State countered with the argument that the blood draw was a reasonable search under the exigent circumstances exception to the warrant requirement. The exigency, according to the State, was the fact that critical evidence of the crime, the concentration of alcohol in McNeely's blood, was dissipating with the passage of time. …

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