Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Supreme Court Upholds Pot-Grower's Privacy, to the Benefit of Us All

By David Downs
Tue, Mar 26, 2013 at 1:49 PM

Chalk one up for civil liberties in the age of the police state.

The U.S. Supreme Court decided today that cops can't go around without warrants having drug dogs sniff everyone's front porch for suspected pot farming.

Warrantless drug dog sniffs of porches violate each American's Fourth Amendment right to privacy in their home, Justices Scalia, Thomas, Ginsburg, Sotomayor and Kagan — ruled in the case of Florida v. Jardines.

The case comes out of Florida, where in 2006 police acted on an anonymous tip by taking a drug-sniffing dog to a person's front porch when they weren't home. The dog gave a positive alert for narcotics and based on the alert, the officers obtained a warrant for a search, which revealed marijuana plants. The homeowner was charged with cannabis trafficking.

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The defendant moved to suppress the evidence, holding the officers had engaged in a search unsupported by probable cause, and the Supreme Court of Florida concurred. The cops took their case to the U.S. Supreme Court who agreed with the lower court: bringing an expertly-trained drug-sniffing device (dog) to a person's front door is a search within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment.

Americans' Fourth Amendment "right would be of little practical value if the State’s agents could stand in a home’s porch or side garden and trawl for evidence with impunity; the right to retreat would be significantly diminished if the police could enter a man’s property to observe his repose from just outside the front window. We therefore regard the area 'immediately surrounding and associated with the home' — what our cases call the curtilage — as 'part of the home itself for Fourth Amendment purposes,'” wrote Justice Scalia in the affirming opinion.

"To find a visitor knocking on the door is routine (even if sometimes unwelcome); to spot that same visitor exploring the front path with a metal detector, or marching his bloodhound into the garden before saying hello and asking permission, would inspire most of us to—well, call the police."

Oooh, SCOTUS burn!

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