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Rodriguez v. United States


A police officer stopped Rodriguez for a traffic violation. After completing all of the tasks related to the stop, to include checking Rodriguez’s driver’s license and issuing a warning ticket, the officer asked Rodriguez for permission to walk his drug-sniffing dog around Rodriguez’s car. After Rodriguez refused, the officer directed Rodriguez to get out of the car until a back-up officer arrived. After the back-up officer arrived, the officer walked his dog around Rodriguez’s car and the dog alerted to the presence of drugs. The officer searched the car, found a large bag of methamphetamine and arrested Rodriguez. Approximately seven or eight minutes elapsed from the time the officer issued the warning ticket until the dog alerted on Rodriguez’s car.


Whether an officer may extend an already completed traffic stop for a dog sniff without reasonable suspicion or other lawful justification.


No. Even though the seven to eight minutes added to the duration of the stop constituted a de minimis instrusion on Rodriguez’s personal liberty, it was not reasonable for the officer to extend the duration of the stop after issuing Rodriguez a ticket.


The court held that “a police stop exceeding the time needed to handle the matter for which the stop was made” constitutes an unreasonable seizure under the Fourth Amendment. When conducting a traffic stop, officers may check the driver’s license, determine whether there are outstanding warrants against the driver and inspect the automobile’s registration and proof of insurance. The court noted that all of these tasks are related to the objective of the stop, which is enforcement of the traffic code and ensuring that vehicles on the road are operated safely and responsibly. On the other hand, a dog sniff aimed at detecting evidence of a crime is not a routine measure ordinarily incident to a traffic stop. Consequently, the court noted the critical question is not whether the dog sniff occurs before or after the officer issues the ticket, but whether conducting the dog sniff extends the duration of the stop. If the dog sniff extends the duration of the stop, it is a violation of the Fourth Amendment unless the officer has reasonable suspicion of criminal activity.


575 U.S. ___, 135 S. Ct. 1609 (2015)

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