The U.S. Supreme Court recently decided to hear the case of Dennys Rodriguez v. United States of America.1 The issue is whether, after a traffic stop is concluded and a ticket or warning is issued, it’s okay to detain the driver longer in order to allow a drug sniffing K-9 to sniff the car.
Can Police Delay the Length of a Traffic Stop?
Police officer Morgan Streubels stopped Dennys Rodriguez at 12:06 a.m. because he swerved off the road, and issued him a written warning at 12:27 a.m. At that point the stop was over, but Officer Streubels would not allow Rodriguez to leave.
Streubels called a K-9 unit to the scene for backup so he could allow the dog to sniff around Rodriguez’s car. Streubels wanted to see if the dog alerted to drugs, which would be probable cause for a search of the vehicle. Before the K-9 backup had arrived, Streubels ran Rodriguez’s license, questioned passenger Scott Pollman and issued a written warning to Rodriguez. When the warning was issued and the paperwork was returned, the traffic stop was finished, but backup still had not arrived.
The traffic stop was concluded, but Streubels detained Rodriguez for six minutes. During this detention, Streubels asked Rodriguez for permission to have the drug dog sniff the car. Rodriguez refused the search. Streubels then ordered Rodriguez to get out of the car. Approximately eight minutes after the conclusion of the traffic stop, the K-9 sniffed around the vehicle without Rodriguez’s permission. The dog smelled drugs, so Streubels searched the car and found “a large bag of methamphetamine.”
A Motion to Suppress the Evidence was Denied in the Lower Courts
Rodriguez was charged with possession with intent to distribute over 50 grams of methamphetamine (21 U.S.C. section 841 (a) 1 and (b) 1). He filed a motion to suppress the evidence obtained from the search, alleging that the search took place after the traffic stop had concluded, and thus there was no probable cause to allow the dog to sniff the vehicle. Both the U.S. District Court and the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied the motion to suppress the evidence.
The Supreme Court Agrees to Hear the Case
The Supreme Court will rule on the issue of whether Rodriguez’s Fourth Amendment protection from unreasonable search and seizure was violated by detaining him after the traffic stop was over without probable cause in order to wait for backup to arrive and allow the dog to sniff his vehicle. This will be the third time in two years the Supreme Court has ruled on cases involving drug sniffing dogs.2
Fourth Amendment Protection against Unreasonable Search in Jeopardy
The decision in the Rodriguez will determine whether law enforcement has the right to delay traffic stops and detain people indefinitely without probable cause.
At Wallin & Klarich, we are passionate advocates for people whose constitutional rights have been violated. The Founding Fathers drafted the Bill of Rights out of concern for the government invading the lives of ordinary citizens, conducting arbitrary searches without just cause, and imprisoning people without due process of law.
The Supreme Court, which has the responsibility of guarding the Constitution against attacks by the government, should strike down yet another attempt by law enforcement to whittle away our constitutional protections.
Call Wallin & Klarich if Your Rights Have Been Violated by Police
If you or a loved one were subjected to an unreasonable search by police, you need to talk to a Wallin & Klarich criminal defense attorney immediately. Our dedicated attorneys have been successfully defending people who have been unjustly detained and arrested for over 30 years.
With offices located in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Orange County, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, there is an experienced Wallin & Klarich criminal defense attorney available to help you no matter where you work or live.
Call us today at (888) 280-6839 for a free phone consultation. We will get through this together.
1. [http://sblog.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/13-9972-pet.pdf ]↩