Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Detention of Motorist after a Motor Vehicle Stop Without Further Probable Cause Is Unlawful United States Supreme Court Says.

In Rodriguez vs. United States decided on January 21, 2015, the United States Supreme Court held that detaining a motorist after a motor vehicle stop has been concluded violated the motorist’s Fourth Amendment rights to unreasonable search and seizure and all the narcotics seized would have to be suppressed.

In this case Mr. Rodriguez refused to consent to have a drug sniffing dog walk around his vehicle. Accordingly, the police officer on the scene called for backup. The court following Illinois v. Caballes, 543 U.S. 405, 407 (2005) held that the authority for the police to seize a motor vehicle during a motor vehicle stop for a traffic infraction ends when it did, or reasonable should have ended.  In Illinois v. Caballes the court held that it is permissible to have a drug sniffing dog sniff the exterior of the automobile during the automobile stop.

However, in Rodriguez v. United States the court held that permitting such K9 sniffing can only occur during the period of time of the automobile stop period, which must be a reasonable time period.  In other words, as long as it was reasonable to make the stop, obtain driving credentials, and issue the motor vehicle summons.  Any delay without further probable cause would be unreasonable and therefore unlawful.  The Fourth Amendment does not permit unrelated investigations that lengthen the roadside detention.  Waiting for a K9 dog sniff would be such a prolonged further investigation that is not permitted unless further reasonable suspicion or probable cause can be found.

In this case the patrol officer who conducted the motor vehicle stop had in his patrol vehicle a K9 drug sniffing dog.  After the motor vehicle ticket was issued, the officer asked Rodriguez whether he would permit his K9 to walk around his vehicle.  Rodriguez said no.  Because of the refusal the officer called for back-up, and in about 8-minutes a second officer arrived and the K9 walk around took place.  The court held that without consent the 8-minute wait for the second officer was unreasonable and the CDS (controlled dangerous substances) found in Rodriguez vehicle was suppressed.  What is very remarkable in this case is that the court said that only an 8-minute delay was unreasonable.

This case is very helpful to the defense because often local and State police departments will detain motorist for long time periods in order to secure to scene of the motor vehicle stop drug sniffing K9 unit.  This case is clear and sets forth a bright line rule that any detention outside the normal motor vehicle stop is no longer permitted.  This case however does not address the issue as to how long that period of time would be if the police have additional reasonable suspicion or probable cause to detain the motorist.

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