US Supreme Court Changes Law On Dog Sniffs After Traffic Stop
In Rodriguez v. US, which was decided yesterday, the US Supreme Court cleared up how & when the police can use drug sniffing dogs after traffic stops. In a 2005 case (Illinois v. Caballes), the Supreme Court had decided that a dog sniff conducted during a lawful traffic stop does not violate the 4th Amendment’s ban on unreasonable seizures. The new case decided whether the 4th Amendment tolerates a dog sniff conducted after the traffic stop had been completed. The court decided that 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. A seizure justified only by a police-observed traffic violation “become[s] unlawful if it prolonged beyond the time reasonably required to complete th[e] mission” of issuing a ticket for the traffic violation.
So put simply, the police can’t pull someone over for a traffic stop and then – without additional evidence of drugs – hold that person until the drug sniffing dog gets there and conducts the sniff. Any wait delay past the time reasonably required to write the ticket will be too long.