Florida v. Jardines

Decision Date26 March 2013
Docket NumberNo. 11–564.,11–564.
Citation569 U.S. 1,133 S.Ct. 1409,185 L.Ed.2d 495
Parties FLORIDA, Petitioner v. Joelis JARDINES.
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

Nichole A. Saharsky, for the United States as amicus curiae, by special leave of the Court, supporting the Petitioner.

Gregory G. Garre, Washington, DC, for Petitioner.

Howard K. Blumberg, Miami, FL, for Respondent.

Pamela Jo Bondi, Attorney General, Tallahassee, FL, Carolyn M. Snurkowski, Counsel of Record, Associate Deputy Attorney General, Charmaine M. Millsaps, Assistant Attorney General, Timothy D. Osterhaus, Deputy Solicitor General, Office of the Attorney General, Tallahassee, FL, for Petitioner.

Carlos J. Martinez, Public Defender, Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida, Maria E. Lauredo, Chief Assistant Public Defender, Howard K. Blumberg, Counsel of Record, Assistant Public Defender, Robert Kalter, Assistant Public Defender, Miami, FL, for Respondent.

Justice SCALIA delivered the opinion of the Court.

We consider whether using a drug-sniffing dog on a homeowner's porch to investigate the contents of the home is a "search" within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment.


In 2006, Detective William Pedraja of the Miami–Dade Police Department received an unverified tip that marijuana was being grown in the home of respondent Joelis Jardines. One month later, the Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration sent a joint surveillance team to Jardines' home. Detective Pedraja was part of that team. He watched the home for fifteen minutes and saw no vehicles in the driveway or activity around the home, and could not see inside because the blinds were drawn. Detective Pedraja then approached Jardines' home accompanied by Detective Douglas Bartelt, a trained canine handler who had just arrived at the scene with his drug-sniffing dog. The dog was trained to detect the scent of marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and several other drugs, indicating the presence of any of these substances through particular behavioral changes recognizable by his handler.

Detective Bartelt had the dog on a six-foot leash, owing in part to the dog's "wild" nature, App. to Pet. for Cert. A–35, and tendency to dart around erratically while searching. As the dog approached Jardines' front porch, he apparently sensed one of the odors he had been trained to detect, and began energetically exploring the area for the strongest point source of that odor. As Detective Bartelt explained, the dog "began tracking that airborne odor by ... tracking back and forth," engaging in what is called "bracketing," "back and forth, back and forth." Id., at A–33 to A–34. Detective Bartelt gave the dog "the full six feet of the leash plus whatever safe distance [he could] give him" to do this—he testified that he needed to give the dog "as much distance as I can." Id., at A–35. And Detective Pedraja stood back while this was occurring, so that he would not "get knocked over" when the dog was "spinning around trying to find" the source. Id., at A–38.

After sniffing the base of the front door, the dog sat, which is the trained behavior upon discovering the odor's strongest point. Detective Bartelt then pulled the dog away from the door and returned to his vehicle. He left the scene after informing Detective Pedraja that there had been a positive alert for narcotics.

On the basis of what he had learned at the home, Detective Pedraja applied for and received a warrant to search the residence. When the warrant was executed later that day, Jardines attempted to flee and was arrested; the search revealed marijuana plants, and he was charged with trafficking in cannabis.

At trial, Jardines moved to suppress the marijuana plants on the ground that the canine investigation was an unreasonable search. The trial court granted the motion, and the Florida Third District Court of Appeal reversed. On a petition for discretionary review, the Florida Supreme Court quashed the decision of the Third District Court of Appeal and approved the trial court's decision to suppress, holding (as relevant here) that the use of the trained narcotics dog to investigate Jardines' home was a Fourth Amendment search unsupported by probable cause, rendering invalid the warrant based upon information gathered in that search. 73 So.3d 34 (2011).

We granted certiorari, limited to the question of whether the officers' behavior was a search within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. 565 U.S. ––––, 132 S.Ct. 995, 181 L.Ed.2d 726 (2012).


The Fourth Amendment provides in relevant part that the "right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated." The Amendment establishes a simple baseline, one that for much of our history formed the exclusive basis for its protections: When "the Government obtains information by physically intruding" on persons, houses, papers, or effects, "a ‘search’ within the original meaning of the Fourth Amendment" has "undoubtedly occurred." United States v. Jones, 565 U.S. ––––, ––––, n. 3, 132 S.Ct. 945, 950–951, n. 3, 181 L.Ed.2d 911 (2012). By reason of our decision in Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347, 88 S.Ct. 507, 19 L.Ed.2d 576 (1967), property rights "are not the sole measure of Fourth Amendment violations," Soldal v. Cook County, 506 U.S. 56, 64, 113 S.Ct. 538, 121 L.Ed.2d 450 (1992) —but though Katz may add to the baseline, it does not subtract anything from the Amendment's protections "when the Government does engage in [a] physical intrusion of a constitutionally protected area," United States v. Knotts, 460 U.S. 276, 286, 103 S.Ct. 1081, 75 L.Ed.2d 55 (1983) (Brennan, J., concurring in the judgment).

That principle renders this case a straightforward one. The officers were gathering information in an area belonging to Jardines and immediately surrounding his house—in the curtilage of the house, which we have held enjoys protection as part of the home itself. And they gathered that information by physically entering and occupying the area to engage in conduct not explicitly or implicitly permitted by the homeowner.


The Fourth Amendment "indicates with some precision the places and things encompassed by its protections": persons, houses, papers, and effects. Oliver v. United States, 466 U.S. 170, 176, 104 S.Ct. 1735, 80 L.Ed.2d 214 (1984). The Fourth Amendment does not, therefore, prevent all investigations conducted on private property; for example, an officer may (subject to Katz ) gather information in what we have called "open fields"—even if those fields are privately owned—because such fields are not enumerated in the Amendment's text. Hester v. United States, 265 U.S. 57, 44 S.Ct. 445, 68 L.Ed. 898 (1924).

But when it comes to the Fourth Amendment, the home is first among equals. At the Amendment's "very core" stands "the right of a man to retreat into his own home and there be free from unreasonable governmental intrusion." Silverman v. United States, 365 U.S. 505, 511, 81 S.Ct. 679, 5 L.Ed.2d 734 (1961). This right would be of little practical value if the State's agents could stand in a home's porch or side garden and trawl for evidence with impunity; the right to retreat would be significantly diminished if the police could enter a man's property to observe his repose from just outside the front window.

We therefore regard the area "immediately surrounding and associated with the home"—what our cases call the curtilage—as "part of the home itself for Fourth Amendment purposes." Oliver, supra, at 180, 104 S.Ct. 1735. That principle has ancient and durable roots. Just as the distinction between the home and the open fields is "as old as the common law," Hester,supra, at 59, 44 S.Ct. 445, so too is the identity of home and what Blackstone called the "curtilage or homestall," for the "house protects and privileges all its branches and appurtenants." 4 W. Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England 223, 225 (1769). This area around the home is "intimately linked to the home, both physically and psychologically," and is where "privacy expectations are most heightened." California v. Ciraolo, 476 U.S. 207, 213, 106 S.Ct. 1809, 90 L.Ed.2d 210 (1986).

While the boundaries of the curtilage are generally "clearly marked," the "conception defining the curtilage" is at any rate familiar enough that it is "easily understood from our daily experience." Oliver, 466 U.S., at 182, n. 12, 104 S.Ct. 1735. Here there is no doubt that the officers entered it: The front porch is the classic exemplar of an area adjacent to the home and "to which the activity of home life extends." Ibid.


Since the officers' investigation took place in a constitutionally protected area, we turn to the question of whether it was accomplished through an unlicensed physical intrusion.1 While law enforcement officers need not "shield their eyes" when passing by the home "on public thoroughfares," Ciraolo, 476 U.S., at 213, 106 S.Ct. 1809, an officer's leave to gather information is sharply circumscribed when he steps off those thoroughfares and enters the Fourth Amendment's protected areas. In permitting, for example, visual observation of the home from "public navigable airspace," we were careful to note that it was done "in a physically nonintrusive manner." Ibid. Entick v. Carrington, 2 Wils. K.B. 275, 95 Eng. Rep. 807 (K.B. 1765), a case "undoubtedly familiar" to "every American statesman" at the time of the Founding, Boyd v. United States, 116 U.S. 616, 626, 6 S.Ct. 524, 29 L.Ed. 746 (1886), states the general rule clearly: "[O]ur law holds the property of every man so sacred, that no man can set his foot upon his neighbour's close without his leave." 2 Wils. K.B., at 291, 95 Eng. Rep., at 817. As it is undisputed that the detectives had all four of their feet and all four of their companion's firmly planted on the constitutionally protected extension of Jardines' home, the only question is whether he had given his leave (even implicitly)...

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