Rodriguez v. United States
(opposing extended traffic stop without reason or warrant as an unlawful seizure)

admin Searches and Seizures

Rodriguez is a Fourth Amendment case involving a search and seizure after the predicate traffic stop had ended.  In this case, the police stopped a vehicle, and the officer wrote the driver a warning for momentarily veering onto the shoulder.  However, even though the stop had ended, the officer continued to talk to the occupants and asked them if they minded him searching the vehicle with his drug dog.  When the driver declined, the cop seized the car and occupants, ordering them not to move.  He then performed a dog-sniff drug search.

The government argued that the search and seizure was done without probable cause or even reasonable suspicion, but that it was “reasonable” because it lasted only a short time.  CLDEF’s brief argued that, to the contrary, under the Supreme Court’s recent decisions in Jones and Jardines, in order to seize and search something, the government needs to demonstrate it has a superior property interest in the persons, houses, papers or effects to be searched or seized.  CLDEF argued that, since the government had no such interest, the seizure and search in this case were per se unreasonable, not subject to any given judge’s balancing of any given factors he thinks were important in any given case.

On April 21, 2015, the Supreme Court issued its opinion agreeing with us.  The opinion was simple:  anything done during a traffic stop must be related to the stop.  Once the purpose for the stop is over, the driver is free to leave absent suspicion of another crime.  Anything done by the Government after a stop is over is an unconstitutional search or seizure.

CLDEF Amicus Curiae Brief (November 24, 2014)

SCOTUSblog Case Page

Oral Argument (January 21, 2015) transcript

U.S. Supreme Court opinion