Recently, the United States Supreme Court dealt with the issue of whether or not a police officer can extend a traffic stop to allow a police drug dog to sniff around a person’s vehicle. The facts of the case, Rodriguez v. United States, began with an officer observing Rodriguez’s vehicle drifting over the shoulder line and then jerking back into the road. The officer stopped the vehicle because of a moving violation and conducted a traffic stop. Rodriguez attempted to explain his vehicle’s movements by stating that he was avoiding a pothole.
The officer asked Rodriguez for his license, registration, and proof of insurance, and also requested that Rodriguez accompany the officer to his vehicle. Rodriguez declined (correctly) the officer’s request and remained in his vehicle. The officer ran a records check on Rodriguez and his passenger, both returning clean. The officer then issued Rodriguez a warning for the moving violation.
After issuing the warning, the officer asked Rodriguez if his drug dog could sniff around his car. Rodriguez refused to consent to this and was subsequently ordered out of the vehicle. The drug dog found a bag of methamphetamine and the officer arrested Rodriguez for possession of methamphetamine.
The case reached the U.S. Supreme Court. Justice Ginsberg, writing for the majority, stated that a traffic stop “can become unlawful if it is prolonged beyond the time reasonably required to complete the traffic stop mission.” While the idea of a “traffic stop mission” may be amorphous, Justice Ginsberg essentially stated that a police officer cannot prolong a traffic stop just to perform a search by a drug-sniffing dog.
So, what does a “traffic stop mission” mean according to the court. Justice Ginsberg stated that an officer’s mission includes “ordinary inquiries incident to the traffic stop.” These inquiries “involve checking the driver’s license, determining whether there are outstanding warrants against the driver, and inspecting the automobile’s registration and proof of insurance. A drug sniff, however, is a measure aimed at detecting evidence of ordinary wrongdoing.” The majority would go on to state that “the critical question is not whether the dog sniff occurs before or after the officer issues a ticket, but whether conducting the sniff prolongs the stop.”
What this means for a person stopped by the police for a traffic violation is you should never consent to a search of your vehicle or admit to any criminal conduct. If Rodriguez had consented to the search of his vehicle by the drug dog, Rodriguez would not have had a strong argument that his constitutional rights were violated. Always be police and respectful to the officer, but do not speak to the officer without consulting with an attorney and never give consent to a search of your vehicle.
Columbus and Delaware, Ohio Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you have been charged with a criminal offense in Columbus or Delaware, Ohio, contact Johnson Legal, LLC and speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney. Attorney David Johnson of Johnson Legal, LLC will discuss your case and assist you in fighting the charges. Call (614) 987-0192 or send an email to schedule a consultation regarding your criminal offense case.