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Florida v. Jardines: stop sniffing my curtilage

In Florida v. Jardines, United State Supreme Court, Docket No. 11-564, Mar 26, 2013, Scalia, J., delivered the opinion of the Court in a 5 to 4 decision, in which Thomas, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan, JJ., joined. Kagan, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which Ginsburg and Sotomayor, JJ., joined. Alito, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Roberts, C. J., and Kennedy and Breyer, JJ., joined.  Justice Scalia found that using a drug dog on the porch of a house at the front door is a search of the house without a warrant and violates the 4th Amendment prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures without a warrant.  Justice Scalia found that the front porch is part of the house’s curtilage even though outside and falls squarely within the 4th Amendments prohibition against the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects. Curtilage is a legal term that delineates the land immediately surrounding a house or dwelling, including any closely associated buildings and structures, but excluding any associated “open fields beyond”.  Justice Scalia reasoned that this is no different than the prohibition against placing GPS trackers on cars violating the right to be secure in the people’s effects.

Justice Alito in his dissent reasoned that the search was not a violation of the 4th Amendment because it involved only walking up to the front door with a dog and was well within the usual license of strangers to walk up to the front door and knock.

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