Friday, April 24, 2015

Supreme Court rules cops can't keep drivers waiting on drug-sniffing dogs

Police aren't allowed to hold suspects absent probable cause while waiting for the drug-sniffing dogs to arrive, the Supreme Court ruled, in a 6-3 decision that spoke to the fate of the Fourth Amendment.

The Fourth Amendment reins in government against unwarranted searches and seizures.

The justices stipulated police can't detain suspects even for 10 minutes while the drug-sniffing dogs are en route, the Hill reported.

The decision stems from the case of Rodriguez v. United States, when a man was pulled over by Nebraska authorities and given a warning for erratic driving. The officer then reportedly asked Dennys Rodriguez for permission to walk the drug-sniffing dog around the vehicle, but was refused.

But the policeman detained him "for seven or eight minutes" until another officer arrived, and then the dog was walked around the vehicle. The dog alerted on drugs and Rodriguez was arrested and indicted on methamphetamine possession charges.

The Supreme Court ruled that search was illegal and the evidence should have been inadmissable at trial. Justices said police may legally use drug-sniffing dogs during routine traffic stops, but may not delay a driver's travels for the purpose of carrying out the drug-sniffing action.

"[T]he tolerable duration of police inquiries in the traffic stop context is determined by the seizure's 'mission – to address the traffic violation that warranted the stop," Justice Ruth Ginsburg said, writing on behalf of the court. "Authority for the seizure ends when tasks tied to the traffic infraction are – or reasonably should have been – completed."

Jstices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Anthony Kennedy disagreed.

Thomas wrote, the Hill reported: "Had [the police officer] arrested, handcuffed and taken Rodriguez to the police station for his traffic violation, he would have complied with the Fourth Amendment. But becasue he made Rodriguez wait for seven or eight extra minutes until a dog arrived, he evidently committed a constitutional violation. Such a view of the Fourth Amendment makes little sense."

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