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Roadside Detention for Drug Dog Sniff Unconstitutional in Certain Circumstances

Drug dog sniffs that prolong a routine traffic stop are unconstitutional as determined by the U.S. Supreme Court

On April 15, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ("SCOTUS"- Supreme Court of the United States) determined that evidence seized from a defendant's vehicle was suppressed. Rodriguez v. United States, 135 S. Ct. 1609, 191 L. Ed. 2d 492, 2015 U.S. LEXIS 2807, 83 U.S.L.W. 4241, 25 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 191 (U.S. 2015), There, the defendant was stopped for driving on a highway shoulder. After the officer attended to everything relative to the stop, including checking license and registration, insurance, and his passenger- he issued a warning. Thereafter, he asked to conduct a brief "canine sniff" or to walk his dog around the vehicle to see if it would alert to the presence of drugs. The defendant refused. The defendant was then detained at the scene while a second officer arrived with a dog and the canine sniff ensued. The dog alerted to drugs and the defendant's auto was searched, drugs were retrieved.

Here, the Court focused on whether the canine sniff prolonged the traffic stop beyond the time needed. "The critical question is not whether the dog sniff occurs before or after the officer issues a ticket, but whether conducting the sniff adds time to the stop."

Police may not use the ruse of "officer safety" for a dog sniff after the initial basis for the traffic stop is exhausted. That is, the officer has the right to check for the following during a routine traffic stop:

  • Insurance;
  • Registration;
  • License;
  • Names and Identities of passengers;
  • Whether there is a current warrant of arrest for anyone inside the vehicle;
  • The time it takes to issue a traffic citation, if any.

If you've been stopped for a traffic citation, do NOT grant police permission to either search your vehicle or conduct a canine sniff. Permission is an exception to the requirement of probable cause and will allow the police to search and seize items in your car.