Supreme Court rules police may not extend traffic stops
Yesterday, the United States Supreme Court in Rodriguez v. United States, — U.S. –, (No. 13-9972), ruled that once a routine traffic stop is completed, the police cannot without reasonable suspicion detain an automobile and its occupants for the unrelated purpose of having a dog sniff the car for illicit narcotics.
The Supreme Court ruled that although the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution may tolerate unrelated investigations that do not prolong the detention, the authority for the seizure or stop ends when the task tied to the traffic violation are, or should have been completed. The Court stated that the officer, in making the stop, must be diligent in not prolonging the stop for unrelated investigations.
In this case, the police had finished issuing all tickets and the occupants objected to a dog sniffing the vehicle for drugs. Following some period of time after traffic matter was concluded, the dog sniffed the vehicle and alerted the officers to the presence of narcotics. The detention past the time the traffic matter investigation’s conclusion was an unlawful seizure according to the Court.
This is a significant decision as it reasserts the right to be free from unreasonable seizures.
Lori G. Levin
Attorney at Law
180 N. LaSalle, Suite 3700
Chicago, IL 60601