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Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that police can not extend a citizen’s detention, during a traffic stop, to look for incriminating evidence unrelated to the initial stop. This ruling came about as a result of the final decision in the Rodriguez vs. U.S. case, in which the Supreme Court voted 6-3 in favor of Rodriguez. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg said, “A traffic stop becomes unlawful if prolonged beyond the time in fact needed to complete all traffic-based inquiries.”

According to Justice Ginsberg, officers are allowed to inspect a driver’s license, ask for registration and proof of insurance, and check for any outstanding warrants. That’s it! She went on to add, “an officer…may conduct certain unrelated checks during an otherwise lawful traffic stop…a dog sniff, unlike the routine measures just mentioned, is not an ordinary incident of a traffic stop.” The conflict lies between the officers intention to incarcerate more criminals and our 4th amendment rights , which prohibit unreasonable searches and seizures and requires any warrant to be judicially sanctioned and supported by probable cause.

If the police are able to prove, in fact, that there is evidence unrelated to the traffic stop which led them to believe a suspect is involved in some sort of criminal activity, there would be probable cause for a search. This is where the case of Rodriguez vs. U.S. now stands. Because Dennys Rodriguez was only pulled over for driving on the shoulder of the highway, law enforcement officials are now forced to prove they had probable cause to search the vehicle; in order for the charges against him to stick. Rodriguez was charged for the methamphetamine found in his vehicle, after he and and officer waited 10 minutes for the K-9 unit to arrive.

So, what does this ruling do for us? This ruling can help stop so many random searches of vehicles belonging to minorities, simply because minorities are driving them. Also, if you record an officer when he states why he pulled you over, and apply this knowledge of the fourth amendment, you can justify why you don’t allow an officer to search your vehicle. Unwarranted searches are unlawful, period. Know your rights!

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Source: Supreme Court | The Free Thought Project