Sometimes, when pulling drivers over, police officers get a “hunch” that drugs are in the car. This alone is not enough to warrant a search. However, the law permits officers to call a drug dog to sniff the area for evidence. If the dog signals that he or she smells something, the police officers have probable cause to search the car. In a matter of minutes, a simple traffic stop can lead to an arrest. Later on, the question may arise: was the driver wrongfully detained? A fairly recent appeals court decision has brought this issue to light.
In 2012, the Supreme Court ruled Dennys Rodriguez guilty in the United States v. Rodriguez case. Rodriguez was pulled over for a traffic violation, and was arrested for possession of methamphetamine. The entire process, beginning from the time he was pulled over and ending at the time of his arrest, took twenty seven minutes. The law permits police officers to detain individuals who have made minor traffic violations, as long as the amount of time is “reasonable.” However, because this amount has never been made clear, there is room for questioning in situations like this.
In November of 2013, Rodriguez filed an appeal, arguing that the amount of time he detained was unreasonable. On January 31, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s original decision. The court upheld the ruling that the twenty seven minute wait for the search was acceptable. The original appeal and response can be found here: http://media.ca8.uscourts.gov/opndir/14/01/131176P.pdf.