Why is the case important?
Is a dog sniff at the front door of a suspected grow house by a trained narcotics detection dog a Fourth Amendment search requiring probable cause?
Yes. Justice Antonin Scalia delivered a 5-4 opinion affirming the Florida Supreme Court’s decision. The Court held that the front porch of a home is part of the home itself for Fourth Amendment purposes. Typically, ordinary citizens are invited to enter onto the porch, either explicitly or implicitly, to communicate with the house’s occupants. Police officers, however, cannot go beyond the scope of that invitation. Entering a person’s porch for the purposes of conducting a search requires a broader license than the one commonly given to the general public. Without such a license, the police officers were conducting an unlawful search in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Justice Elena Kagan wrote a concurring opinion in which she argued that the case dealt with privacy issues as well as the property issues the majority opinion addressed. People have a heightened expectation of privacy in their homes and the areas immediately surrounding their homes, and in this case, the police violated that expectation. Because the police officers used a device (a drug-sniffing dog) not in public use to learn details about the home, Justice Kagan argued that an illegal search had been conducted. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Justice Sonia Sotomayor joined in the concurrence. Justice Samuel A. Alito dissented, arguing that the majority’s interpretation of the public license to approach a person’s front door is too narrow and should extend even to police officers collecting evidence against an occupant. The dissent argued that the common law of trespass does not limit the public license to a particular category of visitors approaching the door for a specific purpose. Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, and Justice Stephen G. Breyer joined in the dissent. Learn more about the Roberts Court and the Fourth Amendment in Shifting Scales , a nonpartisan Oyez resource.
Gregory G. Garre for the petitioner
Nicole A. Saharsky Assistant to the Solicitor General, Department of Justice, for the United States, as amicus curiae, supporting the petitioner, Howard K. Blumberg for the respondent
A Private Residence
State of Florida
569 US 1 (2013)
Jan 6, 2012
Oct 31, 2012
Mar 26, 2013