Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Court Rules Police Cannot Prolong Traffic Stops to Wait for Drug-Sniffing Dogs to Work
April 23rd, 2015/

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled this week that police cannot extend a routine traffic stop to allow a drug-sniffing dog to inspect the vehicle unless they have reasonable suspicion of finding contraband. The vote was 6-3, The New York Times reports.

“A police stop exceeding the time needed to handle the matter for which the stop was made violates the Constitution’s shield against unreasonable seizures,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for the majority.

The case, Rodriguez v. United States, was brought by Dennys Rodriguez, who was pulled over for driving on the shoulder of a state highway in Nebraska. The police checked his license and issued a written warning for erratic driving. The officer asked permission to walk his drug-sniffing dog, Floyd, around the vehicle. Rodriguez declined, and the officer ordered him out of the car and made him wait until a backup officer arrived.

Floyd led the officer to a large bag of methamphetamine. Rodriguez was indicted for possessing meth. He later moved to suppress the evidence.

In a dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote, “If a driver is stopped by a particularly efficient officer, then he will be entitled to be released from the traffic stop after a shorter period of time than a driver stopped by a less efficient officer. Similarly, if a driver is stopped by an officer with access to technology that can shorten a records check, then he will be entitled to be released from the stop after a shorter period of time than an individual stopped by an officer without access to such technology.”

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