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Does drug-sniffing dog invade resident's privacy?

A drug-related matter is in the U.S. Supreme Court that would affect the investigation process of drug cases not just in New Jersey but throughout the U.S. The matter is whether it is an invasion of privacy to bring a drug-sniffing dog in front of a person's home without having sufficient reason to do so.

The question is inspired by a marijuana possession case from Florida. Authorities were tipped off that there might be drugs in a person's home. That alone moved the police to approach the house and put a drug-sniffing canine to work on the outside of the house. But did they have the right to do that with the limited information that they had?

After sniffing outside of the house, the dog signaled to officials that he smelled drugs. With that, the police were granted a search warrant, searched the home and did, in fact, seize numerous marijuana plants. The drug crime defendant fought against the police work that led to his arrest, arguing that it took an unethical violation of his privacy for the police to get into his home and seize the drugs.

Our government tends to think of the home as a protected place, where privacy is highly valued. The defense argument in this drug case is that the use of the dog on the man's front porch was in itself going too far and a violation of the home's privacy. There is a time and place for a drug dog, but at the time the police used the dog, they didn't have enough evidence to legally do so. Essentially, it was like picking a person out of a hat and randomly deciding to investigate him as a potential drug criminal.

What do you think about this legal matter? Did the police go too far by using the dog?

The Supreme Court began hearing arguments in this case last week. When there's a development in this high-profile case, we will post an update.

Source: The Palm Beach Post, "Should drug dogs on your doorstep be legal?" Nov. 2, 2012

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