The Fourth Amendment protects us against unreasonable searches and seizures by the government. However, it is well established within the law that the police are allowed to come to our front doors without a search warrant. Why? Because it is implicit in our social contract that visitors, including the police, are free to “approach the home by the front path, knock promptly, wait briefly to be received, and then (absent invitation to linger longer) leave.” In short, although the police are able to search parts of your property when they enter to approach the front door, that search is presumptively reasonable. Although the police need to be careful not to exceed the scope of this limited license to enter our private property, any evidence they gather or observations they make as part of walking to and from our doors can be used against us.
Also, the police are allowed to use drug-sniffing dogs to detect narcotics, concealed in all types of containers, when you are out in public. This is so, the Supreme Court states, as the dog sniff provides very limited information to officers and citizens have no legitimate private interest in contraband. Because no privacy interest is violated, these types of searches are also reasonable.
But are the police allowed to bring a drug-sniffing dog to your door? Would that type of search still be deemed “reasonable?” In Florida v. Jardines, decided in 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court answered “no.” The case arose in 2006 when the Police Department received an anonymous tip that Joelis Jardines was growing marijuana his home. In response, two officers and a trained drug detection dog went to the house, and the dog almost immediately alerted to the scent of marijuana. Armed with this knowledge, the police applied for and received a search warrant. After discovering drugs were, indeed, being grown there, Mr. Jardines was charged with trafficking marijuana.
At trial, Jardines’s lawyer moved to suppress the evidence seized from the home, arguing that the drug dog's sniff at the front door was an unreasonable search under the Fourth Amendment, so any evidence that resulted from that sniff—including the resulting search warrant—was “fruit of the poisonous tree,” and thus inadmissible. This issue went all the way to the Supreme Court with the defendant arguing that the dog’s sniff was a substantial government intrusion into the home—albeit only onto the porch—and therefore constituted a search, and the government stating that as the police were free to go to a person’s front door, and it is not a “search” under the Fourth Amendment for a dog to sniff a person’s belongings in public, no illegal search had occurred.
Drawing a crucial distinction between the luggage at an airport, a car on a public street, and the home, Jardines was quick to point out that the Supreme Court has always afforded privacy within the home the highest levels of protection, allowing intrusions against this privacy only with a valid search warrant. Thus, while the police can lawfully arrive at a person’s front door, and can lawfully use a specialized “tool,” a trained dog in this case, to investigate into the contents of containers outside the confines of a residence, the police need a warrant to use that same “tool” to investigate the contents of a home. As Justice Scalia stated “To find a visitor knocking on the door is routine (even if sometimes unwelcome); to spot that same visitor exploring the front path with a metal detector, or marching his bloodhound into the garden before saying hello and asking permission, would inspire most of us to—well, call the police.”
 Support for this decision also came from Kyllo v. United States, a case which held that the police could not use a thermal imaging device to investigate the inside of a home. That case noted that “obtaining by sense-enhancing technology any information regarding the interior of the home that could not otherwise have been obtained without physical “intrusion into a constitutionally protected area,” is a search for Forth Amendment purposes.
 Florida v. Jardines (2013) 133 S.Ct. 1409, 1416.
 Florida v. Jardines (2013) 133 S.Ct. 1409, 1415.
 See United States v. Place, City of Indianapolis v. Edmond, and Illinois v. Caballes.
 See City of Indianapolis v. Edmond.
 See Illinois v. Caballe.
California adopted legislation that allows the state to parole some categories of very ill prisoners before the end of their sentence. This system was recently expanded in 2014 as part of the State’s on-going efforts to reduce prison overcrowding.
Under the program, prison medical staff are responsible for assessing prisoners for potential release, looking to whether the inmate suffers from “a medical condition that renders him or her permanently unable to perform activities of basic daily living, and results in the prisoner requiring 24-hour care.” Generally, these inmates are those who have been diagnosed as having six months or less left to live. Although it is prison medical officials who are primarily responsible for initiating referrals into the compassionate release program, prisoners themselves, a prisoner’s family, or any other appropriate agent of the prisoner can ask the prisoner’s primary care provider to conduct an evaluation as to whether “the prisoner meets the criteria for medical parole.” If the prisoner’s application is approved by the prison’s Chief Medical Executive, the application will then be evaluated by a Classification and Parole Representative, this time looking to the level of dangerousness the prisoner poses if released. From there, the application will need additional approval from either the warden or chief deputy warden.
After review by the warden, the case is next reviewed by the Board of Parole Hearings (BPH). This office looks once more to the inmate’s potential dangerousness. This time, however, the case is debated in a hearing format, heard by a two- or three-person panel, and the inmate is entitled to legal representation. The inmate is able to hire an attorney to represent him or her, or will have a criminal defense lawyer appointed. The BPH states that it expects to be able to hold a hearing between 45 and 120 days after receiving the referral from the prison. If the panel decides to grant a medical release, the BPH will review the decision made be the panel at the same time that prison staff work to locate a nursing facility able to take the prisoner.
Concerns to the community?
In order to address concerns from the community, inmates released as part of the compassionate release program may be subject to the certain conditions on their release. These conditions can include electronic monitoring and physical examinations. Should the parolee violate any conditions of release, pose a danger to the community, or recover to the point where he or she is no longer qualified for medical parole, the parolee can be returned to prison.
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