Last April, the United States Supreme Court in Rodriguez v. United States, 135 S. Ct. 1609 (2015), significantly limited the scope of a traffic stop. The officer in Rodriguez completed a traffic stop for driving on the shoulder of a highway after checking the vehicle registration and driver’s licenses of the driver and passenger, conducting a warrant check, returning all documents, and issuing the driver a warning ticket. The officer then asked the driver for consent to walk his drug dog around the vehicle, but the driver refused to give his consent. Nonetheless, the officer told the driver to turn off the ignition, leave the vehicle, and wait for a second officer. When the second officer arrived, the first officer walked his drug dog around the car, and the dog alerted to the presence of drugs. A search of the vehicle revealed methamphetamine. Seven to eight minutes had elapsed from the time the officer issued the written warning until the dog’s alert.
A traffic stop is valid if it is supported by reasonable suspicion. During a valid traffic stop, an officer may demand the driver’s license and registration, may run a computer check based on those documents, and so on. But what if the reasonable suspicion supporting the stop dissipates soon after the stop is made?
North Carolina’s appellate courts have recently issued two important opinions on the use of drug dogs, and the United States Supreme Court has granted certiorari in another drug dog case. This post summarizes these recent developments.
Yesterday, the court of appeals decided a very important traffic stop case. Its ruling strictly limits officers to pursuing the original justification for a traffic stop, and prohibits officers from extending the stop even briefly for most other investigative activity. This is an area of the law that has been muddled in North Carolina, and … Read more