U.S. SUPREME COURT RULES THAT K-9 UNIT VIOLATED FOURTH AMENDMENT RIGHTS
April 22, 2015
Few Constitutional Amendments are reviewed and clarified by the higher courts as much as the Fourth Amendment, which protects citizens against unreasonable searches and seizures. Because the limits of these rights are continually being tested by policy, circumstance, and even technology, higher court decisions are not just instructive for civilian counsel, but for court-martial practitioners, as well. The recent U.S. Supreme Court case of Rodriguez v. United States yielded one such decision on this critical constitutional right.
As reported by Reason.com's Hit & Run Blog, the incident in question occurred in Nebraska in 2012. A police officer, who happened to have had his K-9 in his squad car, stopped Dennys Rodriguez on the road. Mr. Rodriguez refused to consent to a K-9 search of his vehicle's exterior—a refusal that prompted the officer to call for back up. That call extended Mr. Rodriguez's traffic stop for nearly 10 minutes—effectively detaining him as other officers arrived.
Mr. Rodriguez was indicted on federal drug charges as a result of the stop, but he and his counsel challenged the Nebraska officers' procedure. In a 6-3 decision, the Justices of the U.S. Supreme court sided with Mr. Rodriguez: the attempt to conduct a dog sniff search and the additional minutes added to his stop constituted an unreasonable seizure.
"An officer...may conduct certain unrelated checks during an otherwise lawful traffic stop," ruled Justice Ginsberg. "A dog sniff, unlike the routine measures just mentioned, is not an ordinary incident of a traffic stop." Her majority opinion also stated: "A police stop exceeding the time needed to handle the matter for which the stop was made violates the Constitution’s shield against unreasonable seizures."
ANOTHER CRITICAL DISTINCTION IN FAVOR OF CITIZEN RIGHTS
At a time when police brutality and misconduct is making so many headlines, more attention is being paid by the public, lawmakers, and judicial authorities to the limitations law enforcement should heed while doing their job. This sentiment was echoed by Justice Sotomayor in the January 2015 oral arguments of Rodriguez v United States: "We can't keep bending the Fourth Amendment to the resources of law enforcement,” later adding, "It's purely to help the police get more criminals, yes. But then the Fourth Amendment becomes a useless piece of paper."
If you are facing military charges, then you have a choice of selecting civilian representation for your court-martial and other hearings. We invite you to consider and contact Joseph L. Jordan, Attorney at Law. Attorney Jordan has been involved with The Army for over a decade and has successfully defended clients all over the globe in nearly every branch of the U.S. Military.
Take a proactive step towards your defense today. Contact our firm for a free consultation.