The U.S. Supreme Court made an important ruling today stating that extending traffic stops to let drug dogs sniff cars violates American’s Fourth Amendment Rights. The court ruled in a 6-3 vote 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.”
The case before the court, Rodriguez v. United States, stemmed from a routine traffic stop in 2012, where Denny Rodriguez was pulled over by a K9 unit in Nebraska after he swerved his vehicle to avoid a pothole in the roadway. The officer who pulled Rodriguez over took an extraordinary amount of time during the stop…After such time, the officer simply issued Rodriguez a written warning, but asked if he could run his dog around the vehicle.
To summarize the incident, Rodriguez initially denied the search request and backup was called. When the dog eventually did circle the vehicle, a large bag of methamphetamine was found. When his day in court came, Rodriguez initially plead guilty, but later appealed citing illegal obtaining of evidence.
In order to uphold our own Fourth Amendment rights, there are some things we should all remember during traffic stops:
Police do not have authority to conduct a K9 search outside the normal time it takes to issue a traffic ticket. For example, calling a backup unit to search a car that was pulled over for a broken tail light would take the officer well outside of the authority they are granted.
It’s important to know your rights and protect yourself. Drivers do not have to consent to K9 searches.
The mission of a traffic stop is to determine whether or not a traffic ticket is warranted. A K9 search is not considered part of that mission.