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. 

Good decision…

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