Police officers violate suspects’ constitutional rights when they extend a traffic stop to allow time for a trained dog to sniff for drugs, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled today, 6-3. The justices said officers must let drivers leave unless they have specific reasons to suspect the vehicle is carrying contraband. Writing for the majority, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said a seven-to-eight minute delay in the search of Nebraska driver Dennys Rodriguez in 2012 was not warranted. “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,” Ginsburg said. Two of the more conservative court members, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Antonin Scalia, agreed.
One dissenter, Justice Clarence Thomas, said, “The only question here is whether an officer executed a stop in a reasonable manner when he waited to conduct a dog sniff until after he had given the driver a written warning and a backup unit had arrived, bringing the overall duration of the stop to 29 minutes. Because the stop was reasonably executed, no Fourth Amendment violation occurred.”