The Supreme Court told the police Tuesday they may not turn routine traffic stops into drug searches using trained dogs.
The 6-3 decision ends the increasingly common practice whereby officers stop a car for a traffic violation and then call for a drug-sniffing dog to inspect the vehicle.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg delivered the opinion of the Court in Rodriguez v. United States, No. 13-9972. The Court held that 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, than an arrest, see, e.g., Arizona v. Johnson, 555 U. S. 323, 330. 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 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.
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy issued a dissenting opinion. Justice Clarence Thomas issued a dissenting opinion, in which Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr. joined in full and Justice Kennedy joined in part. And Justice Alito issued a dissenting opinion. You can access the oral argument via this link.