I am always sniffing things that get me into trouble, but luckily for me, no one has made a federal case out of it! Meet Franky, a handsome chocolate lab who is sniffing out the boundaries of the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement.
Franky is a retired drug dog who served with the Miami-Dade Police Department for seven years. His journey to the High Court began in 2006, when officers brought Franky to investigate an anonymous tip about a marijuana grow house. Franky detected the odor of marijuana outside the front door, which provided officers with probable cause to obtain a search warrant. Franky’s nose was right on the money: Police found 179 marijuana plants inside. In case you’re not sure how much weed that is, it’s worth more than $700,000. Good boy, Franky!
When the occupant of the home was hauled into court, his attorney argued that Franky’s dog sniff violated the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures. Drug-sniffing dogs are not uncommon – you’ve probably seen them in action at the airport or the train station. The Supreme Court has approved dog sniffs in public areas such as these, where there is a low expectation of privacy. Police dogs can sniff suitcases, packages, and cars to their heart’s content without offending the Constitution.
The problem with Franky’s case is that it involves the sanctity of the home, which receives the utmost protection under the Fourth Amendment. A dog’s nose can give officers a glimpse of what’s going on inside the home, which could be considered a search that requires a warrant. But Florida prosecutors argue that a dog sniff is never a search, because drug dogs are only trained to detect illegal substances, and there is no expectation of privacy with regard to illegal activity.
On Friday, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case and resolve the constitutional issue of Franky’s sniff. It’s hard to predict which way the Court will come down in this case. But one thing’s for certain: Franky was a great police dog! Dog Files has all the details on his career. He worked for seven years, and assisted with the seizure of 2.5 tons of marijuana and $4.9 million in drug money. Franky retired in June 2011 and lives with his former handler. His happy, friendly disposition was his best asset as a police dog. He could work in the most crowded, hectic places without raising any suspicion.
After all that hard work, I sure hope Franky is enjoying retirement.