Intentionally Prolonged police traffic stops so they can wait for drug-sniffing dogs were a nice try but not kosher if you are following the United States Constitution. The U.S. Supreme Court called a Foul for law enforcement to engage in prolonged vehicle stops on the side of the road, which is equivalent to an arrest without probable cause – the bare legal minimum for an arrest.
In Rodriguez v. United States, Justice Ruth Ginsburg wrote for the majority in a 6 to 3 vote:
“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,”
The police overreach began on a midnight ride through the quaint state of Nebraska. Dennys Rodriguez driving his Mercury Mountaineer allegedly veered onto the shoulder of a state highway, unfortunately into the watchful gaze of Nebraska’s finest. Officer Morgan Struble pulled the car over, otherwise known as performing a routine traffic stop. Such a stop included running a records check and questioning the driver and passenger. Mr. Rodriguez was then issued a written warning.
The stop was complete. The music stopped, the dance was over and everyone go back to their prospective corners. Officer Struble would have none of that. Nothing is over apparently until he says its over. Officer Struble had his friend Floyd over to the party. Floyd the drug sniffing dog. Floyd circled the car and its occupants that were still not free to leave. Floyd apparently was not in a party mood. Floyd allegedly smelled drugs. The large bag of methamphetamine found during a search got rid of the word allegedly. Now the detention/arrest got wrist jewelry and a trip to indefinite overnight accommodations.
Justice Ginsberg decided that the traffic stop was completed when the warning was issued. Being required to stay after class for the magical mystery tour of Drug sniffing Floyd was not allowed and hence the fine officer from Nebraska gets an “F” and the Fourth Amendment to the constitution lives and breathes another day.
Takeaway: Police cannot lengthen roadside detentions after the traffic stop was completed for unrelated investigations. Those unrelated checks can take place only if they do not prolong the stop.
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