What is Rodriguez v. US About?

In this case, the US Supreme Court found that police cannot detain a driver after issuing a traffic ticket solely to have a drug dog inspect their car for drugs.

What are the Facts?

Around midnight in Nebraska, an officer saw the defendant drift onto the shoulder of the highway so pulled him over for that traffic offense. While the officer asked the defendant to step out of his vehicle while talking to him, the defendant declined to do so. The officer then ran the defendant's record and began questioning about where he was going.

Ultimately, the officer gave the defendant a written warning for driving on the shoulder, but then asked the defendant for permission to allow a drug dog to walk around the vehicle to search for drugs. Though the defendant denied the officer's request, the officer ordered the defendant out of his vehicle while he had the drug dog check the vehicle. The dog alerted to the presence of drugs, which lead the officer to search the defendant's vehicle and discovered drugs. Seven to eight minutes had elapsed from when the defendant was issued his warning for driving on the shoulder

What did this case change about drug dog checks?

Prior to this case, Courts had found that drug dog checks that occurred within a short time following the completion of a traffic stop were legal because they only constituted a de minimis intrusion. US v. Alexander, 448 F3d 1014 (2006). This de minimus notion was tied to officer safety. For instance, an officer can require a lawfully stopped driver to exit the vehicle so the officer can easily see him during the stop, making the interaction less dangerous for the officer.

Fortunately, the US Supreme Court recognized that having a driver exit his/her vehicle for safety is separate and apart from having the driver wait for a drug dog to inspect his vehicle to further a potential criminal investigation. To detain someone to investigate a crime, law enforcement has to have reasonable suspicion of a crime, not merely think someone is suspicious.

How it affects you?

This affects you because it limits how law enforcement is permitted to treat you during a traffic stop. Even if you are lawfully pulled over for committing a traffic offense, you don't have to wait around while they get a drug dog to search your vehicle. This means that if you assert your rights, and they do it anyway, a lawyer can argue that anything found as a result is illegal.

Keep in mind though, if you agree to their request, you're not protected by the Constitution. Know your rights!

What now?

This is a big case. Read the details of Rodriguez v. US and/or leave a comment below. If you have specific questions, you can call BenGlassLaw at (703)584-7277 or submit your question via web form at JustAskBenGlass.com


James S. Abrenio

James S. Abrenio
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Focusing on criminal, traffic defense and personal injury cases
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