This is the second post in our series on the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Rodriguez v. U.S. Our last post served as a general overview of topics we will be discussing and also looked at why it is important for Arkansas residents to contact an attorney if they feel their rights have been violated. In this post we will look at the holding and explain its immediate consequences.
The U.S. Supreme Court limited the use of drug sniffing dogs in the Rodriguez decision
The United States Supreme Court decided the case of Rodriguez v. U.S. on April 21st, 2015. The case involved a situation where the police stopped a man for a traffic infraction. After completing what was necessary to issue a traffic warning (such as checking the driver’s license, etc.) the officer asked for permission to have his drug sniffing dog circle the vehicle. The driver refused. The officer detained Rodriguez and had the dog inspect the vehicle’s exterior over this objection. The dog alerted the officer to presence of methamphetamine and Rodriguez was arrested. He asked the United States Supreme Court to hear the case and argued that the officer’s conduct violated his Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure. The Supreme Court agreed with his arguments and reversed the conviction.
The Supreme Court’s Rodriguez holding prohibits police from extending the time necessary for a traffic stop for the purpose of employing a drug sniffing dog. The Court had long held that traffic stops may not be prolonged beyond the amount of time necessary to complete the mission of the stop while, in other cases, holding that drug sniffing dogs may be used during a routine traffic stop. In Rodriguez the Court combined these two concepts by now holding that dogs may only be employed if the time necessary to complete a routine traffic stop is not extended; Rodriguez was detained an additional 6-8 minutes after the time necessary for the officer to issue a citation. In other words, if police stop someone for an offense such as speeding, they may only use a drug-sniffing dog within the time window that would be necessary to issue the speeding ticket.
The Rodriguez decision should limit the use of drug sniffing dogs by Arkansas police
The Rodriguez decision should have an immediate impact in the state of Arkansas. Due to the rural nature of our state it is common for people to be stopped on highways for infractions such as speeding. Officers will then call for a drug sniffing-dog to search a vehicle. This causes many people to wait on the side of the road, for the dog to arrive, before they may go about their business. This will not be an acceptable practice after the Supreme Court’s recent decision. If one is arrested under such circumstances then a criminal defense lawyer can assist them by filing a Motion to Suppress illegally seized evidence. If the Motion is successful then the case will likely be dismissed.
Our Little Rock attorneys defend the rights of the accused throughout Arkansas. If you feel your rights have been violated by the use of a drug sniffing dog then contact our office today.