In a 6-3 ruling, The Supreme Court of the United States said that detaining drivers to await a drug dog is a violation of the Fourth Amendment’s ban against unlawful searches and seizures. In a 2005 case, the SCOTUS had previously ruled that bringing in a drug dog was allowed as long as it did not prolong the traffic stop. Apparently the nation’s police heard it was OK to use drug dogs and tuned out the rest of that ruling because the courts had to visit the topic again and clarify.
From the ruling on Rodriguez vs United States:
Beyond determining whether to issue a traffic ticket, an officer’s mission during a traffic stop typically includes checking the driver’s license, determining whether there are outstanding warrants against the driver, and inspecting the automobile’s registration and proof of insurance. These checks serve the same objective as enforcement of the traffic code: ensuring that vehicles on the road are operated safely and responsibly. See Delaware v. Prouse, 440 U. S. 648, 658–659. 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. [Emphasis added]
Writing the dissenting opinion was none other than Clarence Thomas:
Because Rodriguez does not dispute that Officer Struble had probable cause to stop him, the only question is whether the stop was otherwise executed in a reasonable manner. See Brief for Appellant in No. 13–1176 (CA8), p. 4, n. 2. I easily conclude that it was. Approximately 29 minutes passed from the time Officer Struble stopped Rodriguez until his narcotics-detection dog alerted to the presence of drugs. That amount of time is hardly out of the ordinary for a traffic stop by a single officer of a vehicle containing multiple occupants even when no dog sniff is involved.
Of course 29 minutes is a ridiculous amount of time to be kept on the side of the road, though he is correct, it is not at all unusual. It is not even unusual to be kept for all that time without ever receiving a ticket. Those actions will never be changed, though, since you can’t get a court to tell the police not to do that anymore if you don’t go to court. But perhaps it will help a bit, since no drugs found will hold any water for the case if there isn’t a traffic violation to justify the detainment. Hopefully that will discourage those dishonest traffic-policing practices.