Supreme Court Curbs Drug-Sniffing Dog Use During Routine Traffic Stops

May 6, 2015

On April 21, 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that police may not extend an ordinary traffic stop beyond the time necessary for an officer to issue a ticket or warning for the alleged violation. Police, therefore, may not extend a traffic stop to wait for a drug-sniffing dog without independent reasonable suspicion that the vehicle contains drugs. The case involved a K-9 officer walking his dog around a vehicle, after he issued the motorist a warning ticket, resulting in an additional ten-minute delay.

“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,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in the majority opinion. “A seizure for a traffic violation justifies a police investigation of that violation . . . . Authority for the seizure thus ends when tasks tied to the traffic infraction are—or reasonably should have been—completed.”

When there has been a search or seizure in violation of the constitution, an accused may be able to persuade the court to apply the exclusionary rule. Under the exclusionary rule, evidence obtained as the fruit of an unconstitutional search or seizure may be suppressed, which may result in the dismissal of charges.

The full opinion can be viewed at: