Supreme Court: Police can’t hold suspects without probable cause, to wait for drug-sniffing dog

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The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled 6-3 that the Constitution prohibits police from holding a suspect without probable cause, not even for less than 10 extra minutes--which is about the time it might take to, say, bring in a drug-sniffing dog.

What does this mean for you, if you're a law-abiding citizen stopped by over-aggressive cops over something trivial, then detained? As my friend Patrick Ball of hrdag.org put it, “If the police *ask* you to wait, politely decline, ask if you're being detained, and if not, drive away.”

From The Hill:

Writing on behalf of the court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg declared that the constitutional protections against unreasonable search and seizure prevent police from extending an otherwise completed traffic stop to allow for a drug-sniffing dog to arrive.

“We hold that a police stop exceeding the time needed to handle the matter for which the stop was made violates the Constitution’s shield against unreasonable seizures,” she ruled.

The case, Rodriguez v. United States, was brought by a man who was pulled over for driving on the shoulder of a Nebraska highway. After the police pulled him over, checked his license and issued a warning for his erratic driving, the officer asked whether he could walk his drug-sniffing dog around the vehicle.
The driver, Dennys Rodriguez, refused. However, the officer nonetheless detained him for “seven or eight minutes” until a backup officer arrived. Then, the original officer retrieved his dog.

After sniffing around the car, the dog detected drugs, and Rodriguez was indicted for possessing methamphetamine. In all, the stop lasted less than 30 minutes.

Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Anthony Kennedy disagreed with the ruling, arguing that cops should be able to reasonably detain people to check out other possible law violations--as they did with the case at the heart of this ruling.

"Supreme Court: Cops can’t hold suspects to wait for drug-sniffing dog" [thehill.com]

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