May an officer, during a traffic stop, order an occupant out of the stopped vehicle? Into the officer’s vehicle? The law on this question has become unsettled. Continue reading
Tag Archives: traffic stops
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. Continue reading →
I haven’t figured out the punch line to this joke. It was my opening line for a traffic stops session taught last month in the special topics seminar, Race Issues in the Courts, by UNC Professor Frank Baumgartner, Southern Coalition for Social Justice Staff Attorney Ian Mance, and Fayetteville Police Chief Harold Medlock. One reason that it is hard to finish the joke is that these three were on the same page, which is somewhat surprising given the roles they occupy.
I immediately thought of that talk yesterday when I saw this News and Observer photograph of United States Attorney General Loretta Lynch standing next to Chief Medlock. Lynch traveled to Fayetteville as part of her nationwide community policing tour. She chose Fayetteville in part because of the work the presenters discussed at our April conference.
Jeff Welty in his post here yesterday discussed last week’s North Carolina Court of Appeals ruling in State v. Bedient. Today, I will discuss another ruling decided on the same day: State v. Castillo. Both cases are post-Rodriguez cases with different outcomes, with Bedient resulting in a ruling for the defendant and Castillo a ruling for the State. Continue reading →
Last week, the court of appeals decided State v. Bedient, a significant post-Rodriguez opinion on traffic stops. The court ruled that an officer lacked reasonable suspicion to extend a stop by a few seconds to ask the driver for consent to search. This post summarizes and analyzes the case. Continue reading →
Last April, 2015, the United States Supreme Court in Rodriguez v. United States, 135 S. Ct. 1609 (2015), significantly limited the scope of a traffic stop. The Court ruled that an officer may not extend a completed traffic stop for any period of time, no matter how brief, to conduct a dog sniff—absent reasonable suspicion of criminal activity (or consent). The Court rejected the government’s argument that an officer may incrementally prolong a traffic stop, which some lower courts, including North Carolina’s, had justified as a de minimis intrusion. The Court reasoned that a dog alert is not a permissible part of a traffic stop because it detects evidence of ordinary criminal wrongdoing, which is not part of an officer’s traffic mission. The Court, however, clearly indicated that if a dog sniff or other non-traffic-related activity does not add any time to the stop (in this case, it added 7–8 minutes), then the dog sniff or other activity is valid under the Fourth Amendment, as it previously had ruled in Illinois v. Caballes, 543 U.S. 405 (2005). Continue reading →
As mentioned in a recent News Roundup, the Raleigh Police Department (RPD) produced a short video entitled “Traffic Stops: What to Expect as a Motorist,” instructing drivers who have been pulled over by law enforcement on how they should behave. It appears that the RPD had the laudable goal of educating the public to ensure the safety of both officers and motorists. Captain Bruce, the officer who narrates the video, states that “by following a few basic steps, the experience can progress without misunderstanding or conflict.” The video is garnering attention: As of today, it has received 8,446 views on YouTube, with “likes” outweighing “dislikes” 21 to 15. This blog offers legal commentary on a few of the points made in the video, using a scale of green light for what appear to be sound instructions, yellow light for instructions that may raise questions, and red light for an instruction that may prove misleading to citizens.
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. Continue reading →
I’ve updated my paper on traffic stops to include Rodriguez v. United States, __ U.S. __, 135 S. Ct. 1609 (2015), and other recent cases. It’s available here. For those not familiar with the paper, it is a summary of the law regarding traffic stops, including typical reasons for such stops, the stops’ duration, the techniques that officers may and may not use during such stops, and the termination of the stops. I update it periodically and post new versions on the blog as they become available. As always, reader feedback is invited.
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 →