__ U.S. __ (2015), 13-9972, Rodriguez v. United States

Docket Nº:13-9972
Citation:__ U.S. __, 135 S.Ct. 1609, 191 L.Ed.2d 492, 83 U.S.L.W. 4241, 25 Fla.L.Weekly Fed. S 191
Opinion Judge:GINSBURG, JUSTICE
Party Name:DENNYS RODRIGUEZ, PETITIONER v. UNITED STATES
Attorney:Shannon P. O'Connor argued the cause for petitioner Ginger D. Anders argued the cause for respondent
Judge Panel:GINSBURG, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and SCALIA, BREYER, SOTOMAYOR, and KAGAN, JJ., joined. KENNEDY, J., filed a dissenting opinion. THOMAS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which ALITO, J., joined, and in which KENNEDY, J., joined as to all but Part III. A...
Case Date:April 21, 2015
Court:United States Supreme Court
SUMMARY

Struble, a K–9 officer, stopped Rodriguez for driving on a highway shoulder, a violation of Nebraska law. Struble attended to everything relating to the stop, including checking the driver’s licenses of Rodriguez and his passenger and issuing a warning. He then sought permission to walk his dog around the vehicle. Rodriguez refused. Struble detained him until another officer arrived, then... (see full summary)

 
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Page __

__ U.S. __ (2015)

135 S.Ct. 1609, 191 L.Ed.2d 492, 83 U.S.L.W. 4241, 25 Fla.L.Weekly Fed. S 191

DENNYS RODRIGUEZ, PETITIONER

v.

UNITED STATES

No. 13-9972

United States Supreme Court

April 21, 2015

Argued January 21, 2015,

ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE EIGHTH CIRCUIT

SYLLABUS

[191 L.Ed.2d 494] Officer Struble, a K-9 officer, stopped petitioner Rodriguez for driving on a highway shoulder, a violation of Nebraska law. After Struble attended to everything relating to the stop, including, inter alia, checking the driver's licenses of Rodriguez and his passenger and issuing a warning for the traffic offense, he asked Rodriguez for permission to walk his dog around the vehicle. When Rodriguez refused, Struble detained him until a second officer arrived. Struble then retrieved his dog, who alerted to the presence of drugs in the vehicle. The ensuing search revealed methamphetamine. Seven or eight minutes elapsed from the time Struble issued the written warning until the dog alerted.

Rodriguez was indicted on federal drug charges. He moved to suppress the evidence seized from the vehicle on the ground, among others, that Struble had prolonged the traffic stop without reasonable suspicion in order to conduct the dog sniff. The Magistrate Judge recommended denial of the motion. He found no reasonable suspicion supporting detention once Struble issued the written warning. Under Eighth Circuit precedent, however, he concluded that prolonging the stop by " seven to eight minutes" for [191 L.Ed.2d 495] the dog sniff was only a de minimis intrusion on Rodriguez's Fourth Amendment rights and was for that reason permissible. The District Court then denied the motion to suppress. Rodriguez entered a conditional guilty plea and was sentenced to five years in prison. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. Noting that the seven or eight minute delay was an acceptable " de minimis intrusion on Rodriguez's personal liberty," the court declined to reach the question whether Struble had reasonable suspicion to continue Rodriguez's detention after issuing the written warning.

Held:

1. Absent reasonable suspicion, police extension of a traffic stop in order to conduct a dog sniff violates the Constitution's shield against unreasonable seizures.

A routine traffic stop is more like a brief stop under Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 88 S.Ct. 1868, 20 L.Ed.2d 889, than an arrest, see, e.g., Arizona v. Johnson, 555 U.S. 323, 330, 129 S.Ct. 781, 172 L.Ed.2d 694. Its tolerable duration is determined by the seizure's " mission," which is to address the traffic violation that warranted the stop, Illinois v. Caballes, 543 U.S. 405, 407, 125 S.Ct. 834, 160 L.Ed.2d 842 and attend to related safety concerns. Authority for the seizure ends when tasks tied to the traffic infraction are--or reasonably should have been--completed. The Fourth Amendment may tolerate certain unrelated investigations that do not lengthen the roadside detention, Johnson, 555 U.S. at 327-328, 129 S.Ct. 781, 172 L.Ed.2d 694 (questioning); Caballes, 543 U.S. at 406, 408, 125 S.Ct. 834, 160 L.Ed.2d 842 (dog sniff), but a traffic stop " become[s] unlawful if it is prolonged beyond the time reasonably required to complete th[e] mission" of issuing a warning ticket, id., at 407, 125 S.Ct. 834, 160 L.Ed.2d 842.

Beyond determining whether to issue a traffic ticket, an officer's mission during a traffic stop typically includes checking the driver's license, determining whether there are outstanding warrants against the driver, and inspecting the automobile's registration and proof of insurance. These checks serve the same objective as enforcement of the traffic code: ensuring that vehicles on the road are operated safely and responsibly. See Delaware v. Prouse, 440 U.S. 648, 658-659, 99 S.Ct. 1391, 59 L.Ed.2d 660. Lacking the same close connection to roadway safety as the ordinary inquiries, a dog sniff is not fairly characterized as part of the officer's traffic mission.

In concluding that the de minimis intrusion here could be offset by the Government's interest in stopping the flow of illegal drugs, the Eighth Circuit relied on Pennsylvania v. Mimms, 434 U.S. 106, 98 S.Ct. 330, 54 L.Ed.2d 331. The Court reasoned in Mimms that the government's " legitimate and weighty" interest in officer safety outweighed the " de minimis " additional intrusion of requiring a driver, lawfully stopped, to exit a vehicle, id., at 110-111, 98 S.Ct. 330, 54 L.Ed.2d 331. The officer-safety interest recognized in Mimms, however, stemmed from the danger to the officer associated with the traffic stop itself. On-scene investigation into other crimes, in contrast, detours from the officer's traffic-control mission and therefore gains no support from Mimms.

The Government's argument that an officer who completes all traffic-related [191 L.Ed.2d 496] tasks expeditiously should earn extra time to pursue an unrelated criminal investigation is unpersuasive, for a traffic stop " prolonged beyond" the time in fact needed for the officer to complete his traffic-based inquiries is " unlawful," Caballes, 543 U.S. at 407, 125 S.Ct. 834, 160 L.Ed.2d 842. The critical question is not whether the dog sniff occurs before or after the officer issues a ticket, but whether conducting the sniff adds time to the stop. Pp. 5-8.

2. The determination adopted by the District Court that detention for the dog sniff was not independently supported by individualized suspicion was not reviewed by the Eighth Circuit. That question therefore remains open for consideration on remand. P. 9.

741 F.3d 905, vacated and remanded.

Shannon P. O'Connor argued the cause for petitioner

Ginger D. Anders argued the cause for respondent

GINSBURG, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and SCALIA, BREYER, SOTOMAYOR, and KAGAN, JJ., joined. KENNEDY, J., filed a dissenting opinion. THOMAS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which ALITO, J., joined, and in which KENNEDY, J., joined as to all but Part III. ALITO, J., filed a dissenting opinion.

OPINION

GINSBURG, JUSTICE

In Illinois v. Caballes, 543 U.S. 405, 125 S.Ct. 834, 160 L.Ed.2d 842 (2005), this Court held that a dog sniff conducted during a lawful traffic stop does not violate the Fourth Amendment's proscription of unreasonable seizures. This case presents the question whether the Fourth Amendment tolerates a dog sniff conducted after completion of a traffic stop. 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. A seizure justified only by a police-observed traffic violation, therefore, " become[s] unlawful if it is prolonged beyond the time reasonably required to complete th[e] mission" of issuing a ticket for the violation. Id., at 407, 125 S.Ct. 834, 160 L.Ed.2d 842. The Court so recognized in Caballes, and we adhere to the line drawn in that decision.

I

Just after midnight on March 27, 2012, police officer Morgan Struble observed a Mercury Mountaineer veer slowly onto the shoulder of Nebraska State Highway 275 for one or two seconds and then jerk back onto the road. Nebraska law prohibits driving on highway shoulders, see Neb. Rev. Stat. § 60-6,142 (2010), and on that basis, Struble pulled the Mountaineer over at 12:06 a.m. Struble is a K-9 officer with the Valley Police Department in Nebraska, and his dog Floyd was in his patrol car that night. Two men were in the Mountaineer: the driver, Dennys Rodriguez, and a front-seat passenger, Scott Pollman.

Struble approached the Mountaineer on the passenger's side. After Rodriguez identified himself, Struble asked him why he had driven onto the shoulder. Rodriguez replied that he had swerved to avoid a pothole. Struble then gathered Rodriguez's license, registration, and proof of insurance, [191 L.Ed.2d 497] and asked Rodriguez to accompany him to the patrol car. Rodriguez asked if he was required to do so, and Struble answered that he was not. Rodriguez decided to wait in his own vehicle.

After running a records check on Rodriguez, Struble returned to the Mountaineer. Struble asked passenger Pollman for his driver's license and began to question him about where the two men were coming from and where they were going. Pollman replied that they had traveled to Omaha, Nebraska, to look at a Ford Mustang that was for sale and that they were returning to Norfolk, Nebraska. Struble returned again to his patrol car, where he completed a records check on Pollman, and called for a second officer. Struble then began writing a warning ticket for Rodriguez for driving on the shoulder of the road.

Struble returned to Rodriguez's vehicle a third time to issue the written warning. By 12:27 or 12:28 a.m., Struble had finished explaining the warning to Rodriguez, and had given back to Rodriguez and Pollman the documents obtained from them. As Struble later testified, at that point, Rodriguez and Pollman " had all their documents back and a copy of the written warning. I got all the reason[s] for the stop out of the way[,] . . . took care of all the business." App. 70.

Nevertheless, Struble did not consider Rodriguez " free to leave." Id., at 69-70. Although justification for the traffic stop was " out of the way," id., at 70, Struble asked for permission to walk his dog around Rodriguez's vehicle. Rodriguez said no. Struble then instructed Rodriguez to turn off the ignition, exit the vehicle, and stand in front of the patrol car to wait for the second officer. Rodriguez complied. At 12:33 a.m., a deputy sheriff arrived. Struble retrieved his dog and led him twice around the Mountaineer. The...

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