Extended Traffic Stops Illegal, Supreme Court Says

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United States Supreme Court holds that Police may not extend a traffic stop in order to conduct a “sniff test” for contraband absent some particularized suspicion.

 

In a 6-3 decision entitled Rodriguez v. United States (Thomas, Alito and Kennedy dissenting), the United States Supreme Court has held that police conducting a traffic stop may not extend the stop, even briefly, to conduct a dog “sniff test” for contraband unless they have probable cause to believe it is justified.  Probable cause means that the officer must have some facts which would cause a person of ordinary prudence to entertain a strong suspicion that the vehicle contains contraband.  It cannot be based upon the fact the driver refuses to consent, or is driving in an area known for drug trafficking.  There must be objective facts, not just a “hunch” to give rise to such suspicion.

Whether Rodriguez applies retroactively has not yet been determined, nor has its applicability when a driver consents to a search.  However, the days of a “hunch” resulting in a big bust are now history.

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