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Media > Newsletters > Law Enforcement Bulletin > May 2015 > Search and Seizure (Traffic Stops, Extending Stop to Conduct Dog Sniff): Rodriguez v. United States

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Search and Seizure (Traffic Stops, Extending Stop to Conduct Dog Sniff): Rodriguez v. United States

Question: Can an officer extend a traffic stop solely to conduct a dog sniff?

Quick Answer:  If the delay adds time to the stop, it is unlawful. 

Rodriguez v. United States, 575 U.S. (2015)

Facts: A K-9 officer stopped Rodriguez for swerving once towards the shoulder of the road. The officer checked the drivers’ licenses of Rodriguez and his passenger and issued a written warning for the traffic violation. He then asked Rodriguez for consent to walk his drug-sniffing dog around the vehicle. Rodriguez refused, and rather than letting Rodriguez leave, the officer asked him to exit the vehicle. Roughly eight minutes later, a second officer showed up and the K-9 officer walked his dog around the car. The dog alerted to the presence of drugs, and in the following search the officers found methamphetamine.

Importance:  Once the stop is over—that is, once you’ve handed the ticket to the driver—the stop is over, and you must let the driver leave. A stop cannot be prolonged unless new evidence is observed that gives you reasonable suspicion of another crime. If you don’t have additional evidence, you can detain someone long enough to issue a traffic ticket and make “ordinary inquiries incident to the traffic stop,” such as checking the driver’s license, determining if there are any warrants, and inspecting registration and proof of insurance. 

Keep in Mind:  In Fourth Amendment cases, the Court balances the liberty interest of the citizen against law enforcement’s legitimate interest in continued detention. When you conduct a traffic stop for either suspicious activity or for a criminal infraction, you can only detain them as long as necessary for you to confirm your suspicion or to issue them a ticket for the infraction.  Detaining them longer infringes on their constitutional rights.