Legal searches and seizures are central in proving drug charge cases. The U.S. Supreme Court may hear a case that touches upon drug sniffing dogs and the protections of the Fourth Amendment. The impact of the Court's decision may influence future drug charge cases and criminal defense strategy in Missouri and elsewhere.

The U.S. Supreme Court will likely decide whether a police dog's sniff outside of a private residence gives officers the right to obtain a search warrant for illegal drugs or if the police dog's sniff is an illegal search itself. The case is from Florida, but the Court's decision will impact people in Missouri and elsewhere because it deals with the protection of the Fourth Amendment from illegal search and seizure.

The facts of the case began December 5, 2006 when Miami-Dade police and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents set up surveillance outside of a house. Police received an anonymous tip that the house was the location of a marijuana growing operation. An 8-year-old, chocolate Labrador named Franky arrived with an officer to corroborate the tip by sniffing the premises. The dog discovered the smell of pot near the front door and indicated the discovery to police by sitting down. The dog sniff was then used by police to obtain a search warrant for the house.

The U.S. Supreme Court has approved the use of dog sniffs in other cases. The use of dog sniffs have been approved in the detection of drugs at traffic stops, airports and drugs in transit. The facts of the Florida case are different because it involves a private residence.

Under the Fourth Amendment a home is given great privacy than a car on the road or luggage in an airport. The defendant's case has been put on hold until the dog sniff question is resolved.

Source: The Associated Press, "U.S. Supreme Court asked to ponder dog's sniff," Curt Anderson, Jan. 3, 2011