The case did not originally arise in California. However, if the Supreme Court accepts the case for review, the court's decision will certainly affect whether or not law enforcement agencies in California, including along the Central Coast, can use drug-sniffing dogs outside a personal residence without a warrant.

The issue arose out of a Florida investigation into an alleged urban marijuana growing operation. Police say they received a tip of a possible marijuana cultivation operation inside a Miami home.

Law enforcement apparently put the home under surveillance and without obtaining a search warrant brought in a drug-sniffing dog. Law enforcement says the canine smelled along the base of the closed front door of the home, and sat down, indicating to law enforcement that the dog detected the scent of drugs.

Later police used that information to obtain a search warrant, and subsequently charged a man with drug crimes. The trial court threw out the evidence as the fruit of an illegal, warrantless search of the home. An appellate court reversed that ruling and the Florida Supreme Court ultimately ruled the dog-sniff as an unconstitutional search, agreeing with the trial court judge. Prosecutors now seek to have the U.S Supreme Court decide the issue.

If the high court refuses the case, the Florida ruling is not binding on California courts. However, Santa Cruz criminal defense attorneys know that if the Supreme Court accepts the case, its ruling will have a direct binding effect on the courts and law enforcement agencies in California.

The Fourth Amendment protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures. Historically the Supreme Court has afforded people in their homes with more protection from unreasonable searches under the Constitution. The Supreme Court has not accepted or denied review of the current case, but many law professors and people who watch the high court closely believe the court will likely accept review of this important Fourth Amendment issue.

Source: Associated Press, "US Supreme Court asked to ponder drug dog's sniff," Curt Anderson, Jan. 3, 2012