Traffic Stops:  How long is too long?

Last year, the United States Supreme Court in Rodriguez vs. United States, 135 S. Ct. 1609 (2015), ruled in a way that is intended to limit the scope of a traffic stop.  In that case, the Court ruled that a law enforcement officer cannot extend a completed traffic stop for any period of time to conduct a dog sniff, absent reasonable suspicion of criminal conduct or consent.  The Court found that a dog sniff is not a permissible part of a traffic stop since the dog sniff seeks to discover evidence separate from a traditional traffic stop (traditional activity includes checking for driver’s license, inspecting the vehicle’s registration/inspection and checking for outstanding warrants).  However, the Court did indicate that if the dog sniff or other activity not related to the traffic stop does not add any time to the stop then the dog sniff or other activity is valid under the Fourth Amendment.

The Court also noted that while an officer’s primary objective during a traffic stop is to ensure that vehicles on the road are operated safely and responsibility and noted that an officer must act reasonably in completing a traffic stop.  The officer cannot unreasonably delay the checks (driver’s license, registration, inspection, outstanding warrants, etc.) to allow additional time for either a drug dog to arrive at the scene or some other investigatory activity to begin.  Absent additional reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, a stop may not be extended, no matter how brief the time period to conduct additional investigations.

If the Court finds an unlawful stop and seizure, evidence in your case may be suppressed and your case could be dismissed.  To learn about your rights as they relate to a stop and arrest please click here for more information.

Contact Wake County Criminal Defense Attorney Chris Dozier today if you have been stopped as a result of a traffic stop in Wake County and that traffic stop resulted in other criminal charges, such as impaired driving (DWI / DUI) or drug possession.  Chris will be happy to schedule a free consultation to examine the facts and circumstances surrounding your stop and seizure and he will advise you on whether or not a violation of your Fourth Amendment rights have occurred or if your stop was conducted in violation of the United States Supreme Court’s ruling in Rodriguez.