In a 6-3 ruling on Tuesday, the United States Supreme Court declared that detaining motorists on the side of the highway to wait for drug dogs violates the Fourth Amendment’s illegal search and seizure clause. According to the court, the Constitution prohibits police from detaining a suspect without probable cause.

Justice Ginsburg wrote: “We hold that a police stop exceeding the time needed to handle the matter for which the stop was made violates the Constitution’s shield against unreasonable seizures.” Officers can still use dogs to search the outside of a car during a traffic stop, but they cannot lengthen that stop in order to wait for dogs to arrive.

“A traffic stop becomes unlawful if prolonged beyond the time in fact needed to complete all traffic-based inquiries,” wrote Ginsburg on behalf of the court. “A dog sniff, unlike those stock inquiries, lacks the same tie to roadway safety.”

The ruling came from Rodriguez v. United States. After being pulled over for erratic driving, and having refused an officer’s request to search his car, Dennys Rodriguez was detained while the officer waiting for the arrival of drug dogs. After the dogs alerted, the officer searched the car and found methamphetamine, and Rodriguez was convicted.


Photo Credit: Andrew Bardwell


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