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Supreme Court Rules that Police Can't Hold Suspects for Drug Sniffing Dogs

The Supreme Court recently made a ruling in the case of Rodriguez vs. United States of America that says police cannot detain a suspect at a traffic stop to wait for a drug-sniffing dog to arrive. The Nebraska case started as a routine traffic stop, but turned into a test of the parameters of the Fourth Amendment.

Defendant Dennys Rodriguez was pulled over by a state trooper in for driving on the shoulder of a Nebraska highway. A police officer issued Rodriguez a warning for erratic driving and then asked if he could walk his drug sniffing dog around the vehicle.

Although Rodriguez declined, the officer kept him until another officer arrived on the scene with the first officer's dog, who identified methamphetamine. Although Rodriguez was detained for less than ten minutes before the second officer and dog arrived, the court determined in a 6-3 ruling that there had not been probable cause to detain the suspect until the dog arrived.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg spoke on behalf of the ruling, which negated Rodriguez's drug conviction, and said that a traffic stop is over when the original infraction has been addressed. The three dissenting justices argued that the ruling creates obscurity in the distinction between reasonable suspicion and probable cause. Reasonable suspicion does not give law enforcement license to conduct searches such as the one Rodriguez was subjected to. Probable cause, on the other hand, does allow for it.

Making sure that your constitutional rights have been upheld is the right of every citizen, and can have a significant impact on a criminal case. An informed Criminal Defense attorney can help assure fair treatment under the law.


Supreme Court: Cops can't hold suspects to wait for drug-sniffing dog, Julia Hattem, 21 April 2015 

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