Dog Sniff Search Limited by SCOTUS
The Supreme Court of the United States wrote an opinion on April 21, 2015, where it explained that police officers are limited in time and cause when executing a dog sniff search on a motor vehicle. In Rodriguez v United States, the Court was faced with a case involving a routine traffic, which perpetuated into a criminal arrest and prosecution for drug activity. The individual defendant was stopped for a routine traffic violation, went through the short process with the officer where the defendant was issued a traffic ticket, and before parting ways, the officer asked if he could allow his “drug dog” to perform a search of the defendant’s vehicle. The defendant declined. The officer, however, ignored the lack of consent and made the defendant wait and for a secondary officer to arrive at the scene so the primary officer could perform a search of the vehicle.
The whole situation was reported to last approximately 30-minutes, while the stop was extended approximately 7-8 minutes to bring in the “drug dog.” A dog sniff search is not unreasonable nor uncommon; however, in order for the officer to properly execute such a search there must be some reasonable suspicion in order for the officer to extend the stop so he or she can perform the dog sniff search. Typically, when an officer stops a motor vehicle for a specific reason, such as a traffic violation, he or she is limited based upon the reasoning for originally stopping the vehicle. This is not to say, as the Supreme Court explained, that an officer is precluded or unable to extend a traffic stop beyond the original intended purpose. However, in order for the officer to extend the stop beyond the original reasoning for the stop, to include for argument sake a dog sniff search, the officer must have reasonable suspicion to do so.
The main crux of the argument in this case was the fact that the officer had issued the defendant a traffic ticket and then extended the stop to perform a dog sniff search. The traffic stop had ended at the time of the officer giving the defendant the traffic ticket, and at that particular moment the officer had not collected any more evidence to articulate reasonable suspicion to continue and extend the stop in order to legally perform the dog sniff search. This case was fact specific and incorporates the basic understanding of the scope of a vehicle search, which is an exception to the requirement of first obtaining a warrant in order to search an individual or an individual’s property.
Knowing the law, maintaining your rights, and then lawyering-up with a criminal defense attorney is essential in every criminal matter. The Rodriguez case shows why my previous statement is so essential. When the defendant maintains his constitutional rights, denying consent to search and forcing an officer to perform his or her investigatory obligation, he or she is in a better possession than an individual who freely and voluntarily consents to police confrontation and investigation. Josh Jones, Michigan Criminal Lawyer, has your back 7-days a week.
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