11/18/2016Idaho Supreme Court Says Even A Two Minute Traffic Stop Delay Is Too Much
Idaho Supreme Court cracks down on unnecessary delays during traffic stops.
A police officer may not delay a traffic stop just so he can run a drug dog around the car. That was the ruling of the Idaho Supreme Court last week as the justices threw out the charges against John Patrick Linze Jr, a passenger in a car pulled over on November 25, 2013 for having a cracked windshield.
Caldwell Police Officer J. Bridges stalled for a mere two and a half minutes after having completed the required warrant check and traffic ticket writing process, which itself took nineteen minutes.
"I was thorough," Officer Bridges testified. "On warrant checks I ran both through the computer. And my handwriting is very sloppy, so I take my time when I write my tickets... If I would have finished early, I would have called off the canine."
Linze's wife, Rhea, was behind the wheel at the time of the stop. After she refused to allow a search of the vehicle, Canyon County Sheriff's Deputy Bryce Moore decided to run the drug dog around the car, which took two and a half minutes. Officer Bridges said while this was going on, he stepped out of his squad car to provide "cover" for the deputy.
"It's for his safety," Officer Bridges explained. "He's not paying attention to his surroundings when he's doing his canine sweep, so I just make sure that I watch and nobody comes and tries to do us harm."
The dog alerted, and a small amount of methamphetamine was found, but Linze argued that because Officer Bridges was helping the deputy instead of conducting the traffic stop, he illegally prolonged the encounter. The high court justices agreed, citing the US Supreme Court case Rodriguez which said motorists could not be unreasonably delayed while pulled over for a traffic violation (view case).
"The United States Supreme Court has plainly established that a traffic stop is a seizure, but it is not an unreasonable seizure under the Fourth Amendment so long as there is a reasonable suspicion that the vehicle is being driven contrary to traffic laws," Justice Warren E. Jones wrote for the Idaho court. "When an officer abandons his or her original purpose, the officer has for all intents and purposes initiated a new seizure with a new purpose; one which requires its own reasonableness under the Fourth Amendment. This new seizure cannot piggy-back on the reasonableness of the original seizure."
The US Supreme Court explicitly rejected the notion that an officer who writes a ticket quickly might conduct a quick warrantless search with the amount of time he "saved." Here, the Idaho justices reasoned that any deviation from the original purpose of the traffic stop would be impermissible.
A copy of the ruling is available in a 250k PDF file at the source link below.