Fourth Amendment

Court: Warrant Needed for Drug-Dog Search of Vehicle

A little Fourth Amendment protection for the road


The effect of the Supreme Court's landmark Jones ruling outlawing warrantless GPS surveillance of motorists continues to affect the way drivers are treated at traffic stops. Last week, a judge with the US District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia applied the precedent to the common police practice of "permeation" where a police officer enters a suspect's vehicle without warrant or consent to facilitate a drug dog sniff of the car's exterior.

In January 2012, Justice Antonin Scalia penned the United States v. Jones decision that held attaching a GPS tracking device without a warrant was not permissible.

"The government physically occupied private property for the purpose of obtaining information," Justice Scalia wrote for the unanimous court. "We have no doubt that such a physical intrusion would have been considered a 'search' within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment when it was adopted."

In March, the Supreme Court reiterated this finding with a decision, again authored by Justice Scalia, that said a police officer could not use a drug dog on the porch of a home without a warrant.