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Warrantless Search of Home's Perimeter Held Unconstitutional

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Police may not use canine to sniff for drugs from 'curtilage' of home without a warrant.

By Attorney Elisabeth K.H. Pasqualini, Drug Defense Lawyer, Harrisburg, PA

Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court held in a 5-4 decision, that a warrantless search using a canine to detect illegal narcotics was an invasion of privacy if the police were trespassing on the property.  As such, the evidence seized as a result of the search was suppressed.  FLORIDA v. JARDINES, 2013 WL 1196577, No. 11-564 (3/26/2013).

In its decision for the majority, Justice Scalia wrote that law enforcement officers' use of drug-sniffing dog on front porch of home, to investigate an unverified tip that marijuana was being grown in the home, was a trespassory invasion of the curtilage which constituted a "search" for Fourth Amendment purposes, and officers did not have an implied license for the physical invasion of the curtilage. 

The curtilage of the home is "[a]n area of land attached to a house and forming one enclosure with it."  The "curtilage" of a home, which is the area immediately surrounding and associated with the home, is part of the home itself for Fourth Amendment purposes.  An example of curtilage would be a front or back porch or an area enclosed by a fence around a residence. The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable searches and seizures by state agents.

If you've been the target of a home search for drugs, you need experienced counsel to assist you.  You may contact the law firm of Shaffer & Engle toll free or email us today.

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