Apr 21, 2015

RODRIGUEZ v. UNITED STATES - SCOTUS rules on 4th amendment issue

A K9 Officer stopped Rodriguez. He issued a warning for driving on the shoulder and after he issued the warning the Officer asked Rodriguez if he would allow him to walk his dog around his vehicle. Rodriguez refused and the Officer detained Rodriguez further, to wait for a backup officer before having his K9 walk around the car, make a positive indication and then seize a large amount of methamphetamine. 

The K9 was already there. The courts held that the time between the issuing of the warning and the time it took another Officer to come to the location as backup - 8 minutes - was an unreasonable violation of Rodriguez's 4th Amendment Rights of seizure.

Dissenting, Justice Thomas wrote:
In this case, Officer Struble was concerned that he was
outnumbered at the scene, and he therefore called for
backup and waited for the arrival of another officer before
conducting the sniff. As a result, the sniff was not completed
until seven or eight minutes after he delivered the
warning. But Officer Struble could have proceeded with
the dog sniff while he was waiting for the results of the
records check on Pollman and before the arrival of the
second officer. The drug-sniffing dog was present in Officer
Struble’s car. If he had chosen that riskier sequence
of events, the dog sniff would have been completed before
the point in time when, according to the Court’s analysis,
the authority to detain for the traffic stop ended. Thus, an
action that would have been lawful had the officer made
the unreasonable decision to risk his life became unlawful
when the officer made the reasonable decision to wait
a few minutes for backup. Officer Struble’s error—
apparently—was following prudent procedures motivated
by legitimate safety concerns. The Court’s holding therefore
makes no practical sense. And nothing in the Fourth
Amendment, which speaks of reasonableness, compels this
arbitrary line.
The rule that the Court adopts will do little good going forward.
It is unlikely to have any appreciable effect on
the length of future traffic stops. Most officers will learn
the prescribed sequence of events even if they cannot
fathom the reason for that requirement. (I would love to
be the proverbial fly on the wall when police instructors
teach this rule to officers who make traffic stops.)

The fact the K9 was already there is not in question, the fact the vehicle was hit on by the K9 was not in question (already ruled on by SCOTUS, re; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Illinois_v._Caballes). The question is did the 8 minutes it took for the backup officer to arrive on location extend the vehicle stop unreasonably, thereby violating Rodriguez's 4th Amendment Rights. SCOTUS ruled it did. As Justice Thomas stated, this will have very little impact on LE and how K9's are used.

If you look at the facts, if the officer did not issue the warning and took his dog up to the vehicle before doing so, this would never have gone anywhere.

Link to full PDF --> HERE <--

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