About three months ago, the United States Supreme Court decided Rodriguez v. United States, __ U.S. __, 135 S. Ct. 1609 (2015). I wrote about it here. In a nutshell, the Court ruled that once the purpose of a traffic stop has been addressed – or reasonably should have been addressed – an officer can’t extend the stop, even briefly, for unrelated investigative activities such as drug dog sniffs, unless the officer has reasonable suspicion of criminal activity to support the continued detention.
The rule is clear enough in theory but it can give rise to some difficult questions in practice. May an officer engage in brief chit-chat with a motorist, or does such interaction constitute an extension of the stop? What about inquiring about a motorist’s travel plans, or a passenger’s, where such inquiries may bear on the likelihood of driver fatigue but also may be used to seek out inconsistencies that may be evidence of illicit activity? May an officer comply with Rodriguez by multi-tasking, i.e., by asking unrelated questions while examining a driver’s license, or does multi-tasking inherently slow an officer down and so extend a stop?
Courts across the country are beginning to address some of these questions. This post summarizes the early impact of Rodriguez. Continue reading