A Florida Supreme Court says a police officer may need a search warrant before having a dog search for odors. Referring to a recent case, retired Superior Court Judge Eugene Hyman of Santa Clara, California, says there are two separate issues. The first issue asks whether a warrant is necessary for a house and the other asks whether a warrant is necessary for a car, and further, there are questions about the qualifications of the dog.
The general rule, says Hyman, with respect to qualification is that the police officer would have to testify to foundational qualifications; the officer’s qualifications in terms of using a specialized dog and training with respect to the dog.
In the case in Florida with regards to the house, it involved an anonymous informant saying someone was selling or growing marijuana. A police officer went up to the house with the dog and knocked on the door, went in and the dog alerted after some time. The case was thrown out by the Florida Supreme Court and Judge Hyman says the court analogized the dog to a device similar to thermal imaging technology and said you need a warrant. The dog, says Hyman, was being used as probable cause to get the search warrant and the argument is that it’s illegal to use the dog because the dog is like a special technology.
The U.S. Supreme Court says that thermal imaging requires a warrant and that thermal imaging can’t be a probable cause to get the warrant, as it’s an intrusion. The defense, in the Florida case, is saying the same thing, however the state of Florida is saying no- that the dog used had a heightened sense of smell and that’s the dog’s ability and that is considered different.
Hyman wouldn’t be surprised if the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Florida’s decision by saying that using a dog requires a warrant and that going up to a house with a dog is the same thing as thermal imaging, which is used to detect grow lamps, which detect heat.
Cars are treated very differently constitutionally than houses because cars are very transient and the intrusion time is a lot less, says Hyman. Generally speaking, he says, a warrant is not required to search a car. He believes the evidence in the Florida case with regards to the car will be admissible and the house will continue to be excluded.
Honorable Judge Eugene Hyman has received numerous awards and recognition for his work with families and children and has appeared on numerous television news shows. For more information, visit www.judgehyman.com. He is also a featured commentator on The Family Law Channel and The Legal Broadcast Network.