There are no bad dogs — only bad dog handlers.
High-tech intrusions — like a GPS planted by police on a car — on personal privacy have been interpreted by the courts as unlawful unless authorized by a court order.
Now the U.S. Supreme Court has found that police use of lower-tech intrusions — a drug-sniffing dog — without a court order also can be similarly unlawful.
That's what happened in the case of Franky, the Florida-based police dog who sniffed out criminal conduct at the home of Joelis Jardines.
Evidence indicated that Jardines was growing marijuana in his home. After officers received a Crimestoppers report of Jardines' activities, they brought Franky to the front door of the Jardines' residence to see if he would sniff out some wrongdoing.
He did. That's when police went to court to get a search warrant.
By a 5-4 vote this week, the high court ruled that the warrant came too late, that the warrantless use of a drug-sniffing dog violated Jardines' Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.
Conservative Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas joined court liberals Elena Kagan, Sonya Sotomayor and Ruth Ginsburg to form the majority. Dissenting were Justices Samuel Alito, Steven Breyer, Anthony Kennedy and John Roberts.
In his majority opinion, Justice Scalia concluded that the "very core" of the Fourth Amendment protects citizens from having police officers show up with a drug dog at their front door looking to sniff out violations of criminal law. That, he said, includes not only the inside of a residence, but the front porch as well.
Dissenters contended that police have used dogs' sense of smell for investigative purposes for decades and denied that standing outside of the residence constituted an improper trespass.
Absent the dog, that would be the case. But a dog's nose, like a GPS or a sophisticated eavesdropping device, escalates the matter to a considerable degree. Anyone inside a residence with a drug-sniffing dog on the front porch can easily understand why.