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Supreme Ct.: Cops can't drag out traffic stops to await drug dogs

One of the more startling aspects of the War on Drugs has been its influence on the relationship between police officers and citizens. Aside from alleged racism in its enforcement, the drug war has turned every encounter between law enforcement and the public into a potential confrontation. Drugs are relatively easy to hide after all, and just about anyone could have them -- and police officers have been told to root out such dastardly villains with every tool at their disposal.

The U.S. Supreme Court just ordered them to stop.

The War on Drugs isn't over, but the high court seems to gradually be pulling back on law enforcement tactics. In this case, they've been told they cannot use unrelated traffic stops to detain and investigate drivers on the mere suspicion of a drug offense.

If you're asked to wait for any significant period of time after you've been ticketed so a K9 drug search can be performed, your Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure has been violated, according to the high court's ruling in Rodriguez v. US.

It's unconstitutional to cite people and then detain them for further investigation

The Rodriguez case involved a man who was pulled over late one evening and issued a written warning for driving on the shoulder of the highway. After the warning was issued, he should have been allowed to leave, but he was not.

About 19 minutes after pulling Mr. Rodriguez over, the officer asked him to consent to allowing a drug dog to sniff his SUV. Mr. Rodriguez refused, he was nevertheless detained for about 5 minutes until backup arrived, allowing the original officer to perform it anyway. Several minutes later, the dog found methamphetamine in the vehicle.

In a 6-3 majority ruling, the Supreme Court said that once the business at hand is complete, cops cannot legally detain a driver merely to subject him or her to a warrantless drug search.

"A seizure justified only by a police-observed traffic violation," wrote Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, "therefore, becomes unlawful if it is prolonged beyond the time reasonably required to complete the mission of issuing a ticket for the violation."

Whenever you're pulled over, protect your rights. NEVER consent to a search of your vehicle -- you cannot legally be punished for refusing. If you've been charged with a crime, call a lawyer right away.

Source: TheNewspaper.com, "US Supreme Court Limits Drug Dog Use In Traffic Stops," April 22, 2015

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