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What Are My Traffic Stop Search and Seizure Rights?

Traffic Stop Search And Seizure Rights

Sniffing up the wrong tree – my traffic stop search and seizure rights. You’ve been pulled over for a traffic violation, and the police officer now wants to conduct a dog sniff on the exterior of your car to check for illegal substances. What do you do? Do you consent to the dog sniff or can you respectfully decline?

In a recent Supreme Court ruling in Rodriguez v. United States, the Court held that police may not extend a traffic stop in order to have a dog sniff a vehicle for drugs unless they have independent reason for the delay.

If a police officer extends the time needed to handle the matter for which the stop was made, he or she violates the Fourth Amendment Constitutional Right against unreasonable seizures.

What are my legal rights to a Dog Sniff?

The Rodriguez ruling does not authorize police to walk a drug dog around the exterior part of the vehicle during any legitimate traffic stop, unless the police officer has reasonable suspicion of illegal activity. For example, if the contents of illegal drugs are located in the car from the viewpoint of the officer, this would give the officer reasonable suspicion which would permit the officer to conduct a dog sniff of the exterior vehicle. This ruling does NOT permit the police officer to detain you indefinitely until the drug dog arrives.

Essentially, the police may not detain you any longer than necessary to complete the traffic stop violation. The police may not make you wait til a drug dog arrives at the scene to conduct the dog sniff. So if you are pulled over and the police threaten to call in backup with a drug dog, you are not required to consent to the search.

What is the difference between a Search and Seizure?

Both search and seizure constitute interference with an individual’s right to privacy and constitutional provisions are set in place to protect against unreasonable search and seizure. When law enforcement officers violate constitutional protections, this action prevents the officer from admitting that evidence obtained as a result of that violation into your court proceeding.

A legal search requires either a written search warrant from only judges and magistrates or the police officer must be able to demonstrate reasonable cause for the search.

A dog sniff is not considered, in legal terms, a search. The Supreme Court has held that a dog sniff by a trained narcotics dog are an investigative procedure, and not a search under the Fourth Amendment. The Court has described dog sniffs as “sui generis” because they are minimally intrusive and limited in manner and scope. However, a drug dog that is in the midst of a dog sniff and alerts the officer of an illegal substance will give the officer probable cause to search your vehicle.

Seizure refers to the actual confiscation of any potential evidence or arrest after a vehicle stop.

Understanding More about Your Search and Seizure Rights

If you are facing criminal prosecution for any driving under the influence or possessing controlled substance, Beck Law P.C. can assist you in understanding and protecting your legal rights. If you are located in Santa Rosa or surrounding areas, contact our skilled and reputable criminal attorneys today.

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