Traffic Stop Delayed for Dog Sniff Unconstitutional

Traffic Stop Delayed for Dog Sniff Unconstitutional

Traffic stops once again garnered the attention of the nation’s highest court this week. In Rodriguez v. United States, SCOTUS threw out the conviction of a motorist whose traffic stop was delayed so the officer could have a dog sniff the car for drugs. By finding the delay in the traffic stop unconstitutional, SCOTUS dimmed the green light given police ten years ago in Illinois v. Caballes and limited the ability of cops to prolong detentions without facts to back them up. The 2005 Caballes Traffic Stop Decision Caballes had held that the Fourth Amendment does not require an officer to have a reasonable suspicion of drugs before having a drug-sniffing dog sniff a car. The canine investigation does not in and of itself make an otherwise lawful stop unconstitutional. Writing for the majority, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote that the dog sniff could not violate the Fourth Amendment because there was no possibility of protected activity being searched. (That is, the dog sniff revealed no information except the location of a substance no individual has a right to possess.) Caballes did not address the length of the detention because the Court “accept[ed] the state court’s conclusion that the duration of the stop in this case was entirely justified by the traffic offense and the ordinary inquiries incident to such a stop.” This factor is important because Caballes never had to address

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