Impermissibly prolonged traffic stop in violation of 4th Amendment. Drugs found in car – suppressed

In Rodriguez v. United States, 575 U.S. 348 (2015), the Supreme Court explained that an officer’s authority to seize the occupants of a vehicle ends when “tasks tied to the traffic infraction are—or reasonably should have been—completed.” Id. at 354. Reasonableness in this context is defined by what the officer actually does. Id. at 357. “If an officer can complete traffic-based inquiries expeditiously, then that is the amount of ‘time reasonably required to complete [the stop’s] mission.’” Id. (alteration in original) (quoting Illinois v. Caballes, 543 U.S. 405, 407 (2005)). An officer may conduct certain unrelated inquiries during the stop, but he may not do so in a way that prolongs it absent the reasonable suspicion ordinarily required to detain an individual. Id. at 355.

Under Rodriguez, therefore, an unlawful seizure occurs when an officer (1) diverts from the traffic-based mission of the stop to investigate ordinary criminal conduct, (2) in a way that “prolongs” (i.e., adds time to) the stop, and (3) the investigative detour is unsupported by any independent reasonable suspicion. See id. at 357–58; Mayville, 955 F.3d at 829–30. Even de minimis delays caused by unrelated inquiries violate the Fourth Amendment in the absence of reasonable suspicion. Mayville, 955 F.3d at 830 (citing Rodriguez, at 355–57).

Mr. Frazier does not contest the validity of the initial stop, arguing instead that the trooper impermissibly prolonged the traffic stop in two ways: first, by spending several minutes trying to arrange the dog sniff before beginning to work on the citation, and then by interrupting his work on the citation to search the DEASIL database. Under Rodriguez, our task is to determine whether these activities diverted from the traffic-based mission of the stop in a way that prolonged it and, if so, whether the trooper had the reasonable suspicion necessary to justify the investigative detours when they occurred.1

Although the district court held otherwise, we think it clear that the trooper’s efforts to arrange for a dog sniff diverted from the traffic-based mission of the stop and thereby extended its duration. The government does not argue to the contrary, and for good reason. The reasonableness of a seizure depends on “what the police in fact do.” Rodriguez, 575 U.S. at 357. And each minute that the trooper spent arranging the dog sniff was time the citation-related tasks went unaddressed. Consequently, his actions necessarily prolonged the stop.


Anton Vialtsin, Esq.
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