The United States Supreme Court pronounced yet another opinion safeguarding a person’s expectation of privacy, this time with respect to detentions occurring after a motor vehicle stop. The Court ruled that the police may not prolong traffic stops to allow a drug sniffing dog access to the vehicle. In Californian, the California Supreme Court has long held that the police may not prolong a traffic stop beyond what was reasonably necessary to effectuate the citation unless the officer is able to articulate a reasonable suspicion of continuing criminal behavior as the reason to continue the detention of the motorist. The short rule is that the officer needs to write the citation and then let the motorist go. The opinion follows a string of other cases ensuring Fourth Amendment vitality, for example, in a private property context, where the police are now prohibited from warrantless searches involving bringing a drug sniffing dog onto the porch of a home; the Court recently ruled against installing a GPS tracking device on a vehicle without a warrant; the Court has ruled against the police rummaging through a person’s cell phone without a warrant; and the Court has ruled against using a thermal imaging device to detect heat signals emanating from a person’s house that could indicate drug activity therein.
The current Supreme Court has resurrected Fourth Amendment protections in a big way. The string of cases noted above are the most significant cases in the criminal defense landscape since the 1960s. What does this mean for criminal defendants facing charges relating to drug possession, transportation or distribution offenses? If the criminal defense lawyer can prove that law enforcement obtained evidence in violation of any of these cases, then the evidence discovered as a result of the illegal police activity will be suppressed and the case may be dismissed. The short cites for the cases: Rodriguez v. United States (drug sniffing dog after traffic stop), Kyllo v. United States (thermal imaging device), Florida v. Jardines (drug sniffing dog on front porch), and Riley v. California (rummaging through cell phone).
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