Companion Animal Law Blog

Bringing together those whose lives and livelihoods revolve around companion animals

The Nose Knows: Florida v. Jardines


In November 2006, an anonymous tipster informed police that Joelis Jardines might be growing marijuana at his house just south of Miami. Miami-Dade police and DEA agents began a surveillance operation outside the house. After a month of gathering intelligence on Jardines, police were ready to move in. Officer Bartlet showed up with Franky, a gregarious chocolate lab with a well-trained nose. Franky sniffed at the base of the front door, and quickly sat, alerting the officers to the presence of drugs.

The police used Franky’s training and actions to request a search warrant, and detailed Franky’s impressive law enforcement history. Franky has participated in 656 narcotics detection tasks, with 399 positive alerts that have led officers to 13,008 grams of cocaine, 2,638 grams of heroin, 180 grams of methamphetamine, and 936,614 grams of both processed and live-growing marijuana.

Armed with this information, officers succeeded in obtaining a search warrant for Jardines’ house. While executing the search warrant, police arrested Jardines as he tried to flee from the house. During the search, the officers confiscated 179 marijuana plants with a street value of over $700,000.

Jardines was charged with drug trafficking and grand larceny for stealing electricity to grow the plants. Jardines pleaded not guilty, and challenged the warrant and the search.

The trial court agreed with Jardines, tossing the evidence seized in the search. Florida’s intermediate appeals court disagreed, finding the search constitutional. The Florida Supreme Court sided with the trial court and ruled for Jardines. Now Florida prosecutors are pursuing the case to the United States Supreme Court.

This would not be the first K-9 case in the United States Supreme Court.  But if the Supreme Court takes this case, the Justices can examine the difference between “open fields,” which are fair game for a search, and “curtilage,” the area surrounding a house that is still constitutionally protected. Also up for discussion is whether the “plain view” doctrine – allowing officers to search and seize anything they can see in the open from a lawful vantage point – should be expanded to include the “plain sniff” doctrine.

The Justices would also have to grapple with a case called Kyllo, relied on by the Florida Supreme Court to side with Jardines. Kyllo held that use of a thermal imager constituted an unlawful search because it revealed “intimate details,” namely the ambient temperature, inside a house. The Justices could easily decide that using Franky is not the same as using sense-enhancing technology such as a thermal imager, and that unlike the thermal imager that can relate to both lawful and unlawful activity, Franky is specifically trained to detect and alert to only unlawful substances.

To follow whether the Supreme Court takes this case, and to find a link to the Florida Supreme Court’s opinion, visit SCOTUSblog. For more information and pictures of Franky in action, take a look at this AP article by Curt Anderson.

Author: Heidi Meinzer

Attorney and Animal Lover, not necessarily in that order

7 thoughts on “The Nose Knows: Florida v. Jardines

  1. OMG, this is ridiculous. I’m not buying the unfair search and seizure. Very interesting, thanks for posting Heidi.

    • I’m siding with Franky on this one, too, Jonathan! Despite the public defender in me. I have a great appreciation for what K-9s can do, especially now that I have my Sophie in nose work classes.

      • Dogs are excellent for airports, roads, and other public places, but not for your home. The final conclusion in this paper is lacking evidence backed by information in the article itself, “Franky has participated in 656 narcotics detection tasks, with 399 positive alerts.” The fact is that 257 of these alerts were reported as false hits, meaning that dogs are not 100% reliable. Would you want your door kicked in while being rushed with assault rifles because of a false hit? It would sadden me deeply if a young child was injured from standing behind a door when it’s rammed apart. This is america, because a dog barks, scratches, or sits in the presence of another animal in a persons home while they are cooking a meal doesn’t invite your home to be invaded according to the constitution.

      • Nancy,

        Thanks for your comments! Having been a public defender, I share your concern for false hits. But being a dog trainer and taking Nose Work classes with my dogs, I don’t agree that dogs are not good at detecting in a home setting. I am all for making sure that any police power is exercised reasonably. In Jardines, the officers did not solely rely on one alert by the dog. They had information ahead of time and conducted surveillance before they ever involved the dog. It will be interesting to watch how the court handles this case.

  2. Just a quick thought, wouldn’t the fact that the handler also smelled marijuana, plus the anonymous tip, be enough for the warrant? The dog, although was called in to signal whether or not the substance was there, was really just an after thought after the handler smelled it as well. Please correct me if I am wrong because after all I am just a legal studies major and this could really help me in my field of study!

    • Danny, an officer smelling marijuana and an anonymous tip could provide probable cause for a warrant in some cases. But if the marijuana is far enough away and not burning or recently smoked, it is very difficult for an officer to credibly claim that he or she can smell marijuana. I had a case nol pros’d when an officer claimed he could smell unburnt marijuana that was hidden in a ziplock bag stuffed underneath my client’s jacket. The prosecutor was right to do so — I beat the officer up on cross examination in that case!

  3. Pingback: A Sniff Is A Search By Any Other Name, But Is It Reliable? Florida v. Jardines and Florida v. Harris | Companion Animal Law Blog

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