Xavier Cortada, “Florida v. Jardines,” oil on canvas, 48″ x 36″, 2017

Chapter 13

Florida v. Jardines, 569 U.S. 1 (2013)

Artist's Statement

This is a picture of what lies inside a house, what you find when you walk across the front door of a private home. The texture is rich, as is the information stored therein: The molecules swirling as odor in the air and residue on a wall are all the crumbs of evidence left behind. They capture what is happening or has happened inside that home. It is evidence ready for taking, if you can access it.

Human-made technology allows us to collect that information with a swab, place in a plastic cup and analyze at the lab – but only with a search warrant. That requirement even applies to searches that would allow law enforcement to use technologies that could collect that information from the front porch, without having to step inside.

Through breeding and training, humans have actually developed that kind of technology. It’s called a dog.

In the painting, I’ve depicted the information a search dog “sees” with its nose from the other side of a locked door. A dogs ability to “see “what is inside using different neurons—olfactory neurons –is astonishing. It is so effective that it is tantamount to being able to use a dog’s nose to bust a open a door and see what’s inside.

That is why in the painting have depicted the animal as all nose. It is its strongest asset.

But there’s also another dimension to this depiction. We coevolved with this animal, and think of it as a companion. It is a species that we domesticated. Brought into our homes and our lives. Pets that lick us, sleep in our bedrooms, chew on our toys.

Like so much in nature, we’ve also molded this species to fit our own interests: We’ve bred them into pets (wagging tails), guard dogs (all teeth), racing dogs (all feet), police dogs (all nose). Most of us know better than to try to pet a dog from the K-9 unit. And, a community knows all too well that seeing a police officer bring a dog to sniff your front door is an altogether different visual than having your neighbor walk his dog on your front lawn. They are too different animals: One requires a pooper scooper. The other probable cause.

The police officers failed get a search warrant for the dog they brought to Jardines’ front porch. The Supreme Court told them they were wrong in not doing so: Bad dog.

– Xavier Cortada