By now, most court actors are familiar with the United States Supreme Court’s holding in Rodriguez v. United States, ___ U.S. ___, 135 S. Ct. 1609 (April 21, 2015) (discussed in a prior post) that a law enforcement officer may not extend a traffic stop to investigate matters unrelated to the mission for the stop–that is, to address the traffic violation that warranted the stop and attend to related safety concerns–unless the extension is supported by reasonable suspicion. Defense attorneys and other court actors were curious to see how North Carolina appellate courts would analyze this significant new limitation on the scope of traffic stops.
Here is a table setting out the holdings that have come down in the fifteen months since Rodriguez was decided. As you can see, our courts have found that an extension following completion of a traffic stop was supported by reasonable suspicion in three cases, and not supported in two. In one of those two, State v. Bullock, there was a dissent and a stay has been issued, so further review may be ahead. The table includes the reason for the traffic stop and factors that the appellate courts considered in deciding whether an extension was justified. I also provided links to prior blog posts related to these cases. Don’t forget that you can access case and legislative summaries as well as a searchable compendium of criminal cases on the School of Government’s Criminal Law in North Carolina page. I will update the table as the law develops in this area.