Cops may not extend ordinary traffic stop to perform drug dog sniff without reasonable suspicion

Yesterday, the United States Supreme Court decided Rodriguez v. United States and vacated the defendant’s conviction for possession of meth.  Rodriguez was stopped by a Nebraska K-9 officer for driving on the shoulder of the highway.  The officer checked the driver’s licenses of Rodriquez and his passenger, issued a warning and then asked to be allowed to have his dog walk around the vehicle to sniff for drugs.  Rodriguez refused.  The officer called for backup.  When the backup officer arrived, the K-9 officer had his dog do a drug sniff and the dog alerted to the presence of drugs.  A search of the car revealed meth.  Rodriguez entered a conditional plea that allowed him to challenge the search on appeal.  The Eighth Circuit upheld the search characterizing the seven or eight minutes between the time the officer issued the warning to the time the dog alerted as a “de minimis intrusion.”  The United States Supreme Court disagreed and vacated the conviction.   “Because addressing the infraction is the purpose of the stop, it may “last no longer than is necessary to effectuate th[at] purpose.” Ibid. See also Caballes, 543 U. S., at 407. Authority for the seizure thus ends when tasks tied to the traffic infraction are—or reasonably should have been—completed. SeeSharpe, 470 U. S., at 686 (in determining the reasonable duration of a stop, “it [is] appropriate to examine whether the police diligently pursued [the] investigation”).”

Unlike a general interest in criminal enforcement, however, the government’s officer safety interest stems from the mission of the stop itself. Traffic stops are “especially fraught with danger to police officers,” Johnson, 555 U. S., at 330 (internal quotation marks omitted), so an officer may need to take certain negligibly burdensome precautions in order to complete his mission safely. Cf. United States v.Holt, 264 F. 3d 1215, 1221–1222 (CA10 2001) (en banc) (recognizing officer safety justification for criminal record and outstanding warrant checks), abrogated on other grounds as recognized in United States v. Stewart, 473 F. 3d 1265, 1269 (CA10 2007).On-scene investigation into other crimes, however, detours from that mission. See supra, at 6–7. So too do safety precautions taken in order to facilitate such detours. But cf. post, at 2–3 (Alito, J., dissenting). Thus, even assuming that the imposition here was no more intrusive than the exit order in Mimms, the dog sniff could not be justified on the same basis. Highway and officer safety are interests different in kind from the Government’s endeavor to detect crime in general or drug trafficking in particular.

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