Aug 20, 2008 Red lights, dogs and the Fourth Circuit
Police love when suspects drive cars. The driver is bound to violate one traffic law or another, thus justifying a police stop of the car, and an attempt to reveal criminal activity afoot.
Police also love to bring "drug" dogs to attempt a justification to search the vehicle. However, a drug dog sniff is only allowed during the time reasonably needed to issue a moving violation citation. If no dogs are available in such a short time, the cops need to manufacture, I mean try to find, reasonable suspicion to prolong the car stop to get a drug sniffing dog’s presence.
What, however, justifies the cops to hold onto a red-light running violation suspect for thirty minutes? Read this Fourth Circuit opinion that allowed such a lengthy detention based on claimed reasonable articulable suspicion that the court said allowed the police to detain the defendant longer than needed to write a moving violation ticket (running a red light). U.S. v. Branch, ___ F.3d. ___ (Fourth Cir., August 20, 2008).
Fortunately, the dissent in U.S. v. Branch is strongly-worded enough in order to help make headway in getting an en banc reveiw of this case. Meanwhile, if in Virginia, caveat emptor, to say the least. Jon Katz.