By Morgan Smith
Under current Supreme Court precedent, the “sniff” of a trained drug detection dog generally does not constitute a search within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment because of the dog’s unique ability to detect contraband items without physical intrusion. Thus, police canines have become valuable tools utilized by law enforcement since the Drug War era. Many questions have arisen, however, as to the validity of warrantless dog sniffs in states where marijuana has been legalized and thus, is no longer contraband. Further, the Supreme Court’s view that a drug dog sniff is not a search has raised concerns because it is an investigatory tactic that escapes Fourth Amendment scrutiny and can be utilized by officers with minimal restraint. The Supreme Court has overlooked these concerns, and thus, has diluted the individual’s privacy interests along the way. This Comment addresses the federal and state jurisprudence concerning drug detection dogs and the implications of state legalization and decriminalization of marijuana. It concludes that the Supreme Court’s approach to drug detection dogs under the Fourth Amendment should be reexamined to provide more protections against these intrusive and outdated Drug War era police tactics.
Morgan Smith, Comment, Beware of the Drug Detection Dog: The Fourth Amendment, Drug Detection Dogs, and State Legalization of Marijuana, 73 SMU L. Rev. 611 (2020).