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Supreme Court Rules Drug-Sniffing Dogs at Traffic Stops Are Illegal

Drug Charges from Drug-Sniffing Dogs at Routine Traffic Stops Now Illegal Per Supreme Court

drug-sniffing dogsOn Tuesday, April 21st, the Supreme Court ruled that a police may not bring in drug-sniffing dogs during a routine traffic stop, even if the dog finds a controlled substance and the suspect receives drug charges.

The ruling applied search and seizure law to routine traffic stops, resulting in a ruling in favor of a suspect’s rights. If there is no reason to suspect a driver may have illegal substances in the vehicle, then there is no reason to bring in drug-sniffing dogs. The decision was 6-3, with both liberal and conservative judges agreeing overwhelmingly that stopping a motorist then switching up the criminal charges was a violation of basic constitutional rights.

“Police may not prolong detention of a car and driver beyond the time reasonably required to address the traffic violation,” said Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, speaking for the court. The Supreme Court’s ruling applies the 4th Amendment to all police officers – local, state, and federal.

Ginsburg stated that police officers are able to stop a motorist for speeding or other traffic offenses, and check the driver and the driver’s license. However, if there is no other reason to suspect DUI or drug involvement, then drug-sniffing dogs are not warranted.

“The tolerable duration of police inquiries in the traffic-stop context is determined by the seizure’s ‘missions’–to address the traffic violation that warranted the stop and attend to related safety concerns,” she explained in Rodriquez vs. United States. “Authority for the seizure thus ends when tasks tied to the traffic infraction are–and reasonably should have been–completed.”

The original case involved a Nebraska police officer who, just after midnight on March 27th, 2012, saw a car run off the shoulder and swerve back onto the road. The officer pulled the vehicle over. There were two men in the car – the driver was plaintiff Dennys Rodriguez – and the driver informed the officer that he had swerved to avoid a pot hole. The officer checked Rodriguez’s license and registration, and inspected both him and his passenger for signs of intoxication. Satisfied, the officer decided to write up a warning, then suddenly changed his mind and asked if he could bring in drug-sniffing dogs. Rodriguez refused the search – which is within his rights – but the officer forced the two men to stay in their parked vehicle until the dogs arrived. The dog alerted officers to the presence of drugs, and police officers found methamphetamine. The two suspects were arrested on drug charges, but Rodriguez fought the charges based on 4th Amendment violations.

The original judge in the drug charges case, as well as the 8th Circuit Court, ruled that a stop of 7-10 minutes for drug-sniffing dogs was not an unreasonable wait, but the Supreme Court reversed that decision and ruled that the method of obtaining evidence for the drug charges was in violation of Rodriguez’s 4th Amendment rights.

The Strom Law Firm Defends Against Drug Charges and Other Criminal Charges

If you face drug charges or criminal charges, the South Carolina drug charges defense attorneys at the Strom Law Firm can help. We offer a free, confidential consultation to discuss your drug charges, and if retained, we will fight for your rights in court. Contact us today for help. 803.252.4800

About Pete Strom

Defending criminal charges including drug crimes, DUI, CDV, mail fraud, wire fraud, bank fraud, computer crimes, money laundering, and juvenile crimes, Pete also handles Federal and State investigations. Representing individuals in Civil Matters including Class Actions, Personal Injury, Qui Tam Actions, Defective Products, Nursing Home Neglect, and Professional Licensing Defense cases. Joseph Preston “Pete” Strom, Jr., the managing partner at Strom Law Firm, L.L.C., has been fighting for justice since 1984.

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