In an amazing, one might even say astounding decision Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia wrote the majority opinion which affirmed that a person has the right to be secure in their home and free from an unwarranted search by authorities. The question was relatively straight forward. Can the police, with no justifiable or legitimate reason walk on to a person’s property with a drug sniffing dog.
Police took a drug-sniffing dog to Jardines’ front porch, where the dog gave a positive alert for narcotics. Based on the alert, the officers obtained a warrant for a search, which revealed marijuana plants; Jardines was charged with trafficking in cannabis. The Supreme Court of
approved the trial court’s decision
to suppress the evidence, holding that the officers had engaged in a Fourth Amendment search unsupported by
probable cause. Florida
Now there was no way Justice Scalia, the champion of police powers and a judge for whom government can do no wrong against defendants was going to uphold the Supreme Court of Florida and rule that the police (and the dog) had no right to be on Jardines’s property. BUT HE DID.
But when it comes to the Fourth Amendment, the home is first among equals. At the Amendment’s “very core” stands “the right of a man to retreat into his own home and there be free from unreasonable governmental in- trusion.” Silverman v.
United States,365 U. S.
505, 511 (1961) . This 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.
And yes, the outcome of the case, where a drug dealer was probably allowed to go free is deplorable. But the outcome is not relevant to the law, the law is relevant to the law. And had the policy simply waited for the accused to leave his house, and had they followed him and determined that he was dealing drugs they could have arrested him and got their conviction.
So Justice Scalia came down on the side of the law, and not the outcome. Police officials in Florida were visibly upset, but the dog later said the decision was the right thing to do, and that he was sorry to have been a part of an Unconstitutional search. Elsewhere Porky Pig and a few of his friends were seen flying over the Supreme Court Building in