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Media > Newsletters > Law Enforcement Bulletin > August 2016 > State v. Carver, 2016 Ohio 4926

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State v. Carver, 2016 Ohio 4926

Question: Can an officer extend a traffic stop without reasonable suspicion in order to seek consent to search a vehicle?

Quick Answer: No, in order to extend a traffic stop beyond the time necessary to take enforcement action an officer must have reasonable, articulable suspicion of criminal activity.

Facts: A trooper stopped a vehicle for traveling 7 mph over the speed limit. After stopping the vehicle, he observed three occupants. The trooper indicated the three individuals seemed unusually nervous and didn’t make eye contact with him. He did not detect an odor of alcohol or marijuana and did not observe any contraband in the vehicle. He asked for and ran all of their identifications, finding no outstanding issues. He did note the driver, Carver, had two prior drug offenses on his record. Approximately 30 minutes after the stop, the trooper asked Carver to exit the vehicle and told him he was giving him a warning. Instead of issuing the warning at that point, the trooper continued the questioning of Carver and then sought and received consent to search. The search revealed two hypodermic needles, a small amount of hashish, and another hypodermic needle and spoon with heroin residue inside Carver’s sock. Carver filed a motion to suppress; the motion was denied by the trial court. On appeal, the appellate court overruled the trial court and suppressed the consent and subsequent search. The appeals court noted that at the conclusion of checking identifications, aside from nervousness and Carver’s prior drug offenses, there was no justification in the continuation of the detention. The court advised that the continued detention negated the consent to search later obtained by the trooper.

Keep in Mind: Officers may only extend the duration of a traffic stop beyond the time it takes to take enforcement action when there is reasonable, articulable suspicion to believe the occupants are engaged in criminal activity, or the person consents to the continued detention after it is apparent they are otherwise free to leave.