The United States Supreme Court decided Rodriguez v. United States on April 21, 2015. The decision enhances Fourth Amendment protections in cases involving motor vehicle stops.
Briefly, Rodriguez, the driver, and his passenger were stopped by a Valley, Nebraska police officer for veering onto the shoulder of a State highway and then jerking back onto the road. The officer was a K-9 officer who had his police dog with him. He conducted a records check on the vehicle’s occupants, questioned Rodriguez and his passenger, checked all of the necessary documents, wrote a warning ticket, and returned the documents to the occupants with the warning ticket. Thus, the main purpose of the initial stop – the investigation of a traffic infraction – was completed.
Nevertheless, the officer did not consider Rodriguez and his passenger free to leave. He requested permission to walk his dog around the vehicle, and Rodriguez declined. The officer then instructed Rodriguez to turn off and exit the vehicle, and stand in front of his patrol car to await the arrival of a second officer. Rodriguez complied, the second officer arrived, the dog was escorted around the vehicle and alerted to the presence of drugs (methamphetamine). Significantly, approximately seven to eight minutes had passed between the issuance of the warning ticket and the alert by the dog. Continue reading ›