Prolonged Traffic Stops Causes Suppression of Evidence

On Tuesday the Supreme Court made another important ruling on a search and seizure case involving prolonged traffic stops and canine searches. In this case Mr Rodriguez was pulled over for the traffic offense of driving on the shoulder of the road. After the officer attended to everything surrounding the traffic stop (license check, warrant check, and insurance) he asked Rodriguez permission to conduct a canine search. Rodriguez refused and the officer had him exit the vehicle and stand near the hood while he waited 8 minutes for a back up officer to arrive. The officer then conducted a canine search, the dog alerted, and methamphetamine was discovered in the car.

Rodriguez contended that the evidence discovered during the search should be suppressed  because the officer had prolonged the detention without reasonable suspicion in order to gain time to conduct a canine search. The Supreme Court agreed and ruled the search was unconstitutional. The key factor for the court was that the officer had completed all work regarding his initial traffic stop. There was no reason to prolong the defendants detention. Even though the defendant had to only wait eight more minutes that was eight minutes too long.

This case will effect any pending cases in Texas that have similar facts. Texas law enforcement officers frequently pull over citizens for traffic violations and then summon a canine unit. The law in Texas already gave defense lawyers ammunition to argue that type of stop was unconstitutional. This Supreme Court case will settle that question once and for all under this fact scenario.

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