Federal Criminal Defense Attorney Hope Lefeber Discusses Recent Supreme Court Ruling Regarding Traffic Stops And Dog Sniffs

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The Supreme Court in Rodriguez v. United States, ruled that absent independent justification for the search, dog sniffs are unconstitutional. Ms. Lefeber discusses this recent decision.

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Hope Lefeber

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

The Supreme Court in Rodriguez v. United States, 2015 WL 1780927, (April 21, 2015) ruled that delaying a traffic stop in order to conduct a dog sniff search violates the suspect’s Fourth Amendment rights unless the police had an independent reason for the delay.

According to court documents, Rodriguez were pulled over by a police officer after the officer observed his car swerving into the hard shoulder and then jerking back in lane. The officer gathered Rodriguez’s license and registration and asked him about his journey. The officer then issued Rodriguez a written warning. After the officer had addressed the conduct which caused Rodriguez’s car to be pulled over, he sought to conduct a dog sniff search of their car. When Rodriguez refused, the officer ordered him to turn off the ignition and wait outside the car while the dog sniffed around the car. The sniff search uncovered a large bag of methamphetamine.

At Rodriguez’s trial, he moved to exclude the drugs found on Fourth Amendment grounds. The District Court denied the motion, ruling that the extension of a lawful stop by “7 to 10 minutes” did not make the search unlawful. The Eight Circuit affirmed, agreeing that the extension was de minimus.

Ms. Lefeber explains that the Supreme Court reached the opposite conclusion. “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.” Therefore, the question was whether the dog sniff extended the time needed to handle the matter for which the stop was made. Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg held: “Absent reasonable suspicion, police extension of a traffic stop in order to conduct a dog sniff violates the Constitution’s shield against unreasonable seizures.” However, this case is not over, as the Supreme Court remanded it to determine whether there was an independent justification for the search.

Ms. Lefeber believes that while this case represents a giant step forward for the defense in terms of Fourth Amendment rights, the ultimate result remains to be seen, as the lower court may yet find that there was independent justification for the search.

About Hope Lefeber:

In practice since 1979, Lefeber is an experienced and aggressive criminal defense attorney in Philadelphia. As a former Enforcement Attorney for the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission, Lefeber uses the knowledge she gained while working for the government to best defend her clients facing serious state and federal charges related to drug offenses and white collar crime, including business and corporate fraud, mail and wire fraud, money laundering, financial and securities fraud, and tax fraud.

A member of the invitation-only National Trial Lawyers Top 100, Lefeber is recognized by Thomson Reuters as a Super Lawyer. She has also been recognized by the National Academy of Criminal Defense Attorneys as one of the Top Ten Criminal Defense Attorneys. She has represented high-profile clients, published numerous articles, lectured on federal criminal law issues, taught Continuing Legal Education classes to other Philadelphia criminal defense attorneys and has been quoted by various media outlets, from TV news to print publications.

Learn more at http://www.hopelefeber.com/

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