On November 3, 2006, the Miami-Dade Police Department received an unverified “crime stoppers” tip that the home of Joelis Jardines was being used to grow marijuana. On December 6, 2006, two detectives, along with a trained drug detection dog, approached the residence. The dog handler accompanied the dog to the front door of the home. The dog signaled that it detected the scent of narcotics. The detective also personally smelled marijuana. The detective prepared an affidavit and applied for a search warrant, which was issued. A search confirmed that marijuana was being grown inside the home. Jardines was arrested and charged with trafficking cannabis. Jardines moved to suppress the evidence seized at his home on the theory that the drug dog’s sniff was an impermissible search under the Fourth Amendment and that all subsequent evidence was fruit of the poisonous tree. The trial court conducted an evidentiary hearing and subsequently ruled to suppress the evidence. The state appealed the suppression ruling and the state appellate court reversed, concluding that no illegal search had occurred since the officer had the right to go up to the defendant’s front door and that a warrant was not necessary for the drug dog’s sniff. The Florida Supreme Court reversed the appellate court’s decision and concluded that the dog’s sniff was a substantial government intrusion into the sanctity of the home and constituted a search within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. The state of Florida appealed the Florida Supreme Court’s decision.
One who knocks on a home’s front door is an invitee or licensee, justifying ingress to the home by solicitors, hawkers and peddlers of all kinds. This implicit license typically permits the visitor to approach the home by the front path, knock promptly, wait briefly to be received, then leave. Thus, a police officer not armed with a warrant may approach a home and knock, precisely because that is no more than any private citizen might do.