In 2012, Dennys Rodriguez was stopped by a police officer on a highway near Waterloo, Nebraska, after the officer observed him swerve out of his lane of traffic. He veered slowly onto the shoulder for two-three seconds and then jerked the car back into the lane. After being pulled over, he explained that he was trying to avoid a pothole.
After several minutes, the officer issued a written warning to Mr. Rodriguez. The officer testified, at that point, Rodriguez and his passenger “had all their documents back and a copy of the written warning. I got all the reason[s] for the stop out of the way[,] . . . took care of all the business.” The officer then asked to walk the dog around the car. Rodriguez did not permit. The officer called for backup.
After seven minutes, the backup arrived. The officer then walked the dog around the car. Rodriguez says that the prolonged stop was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court agrees. Like a Terry stop, the 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, and attend to related safety concerns. Authority for the seizure thus ends when tasks tied to the traffic infraction are—or reasonably should have been—completed.
Full opinion at: Rodriguez v. United States, 575 U.S. ___ (2015), https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/14pdf/13-9972_p8k0.pdf
Anton Vialtsin, Esq.
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