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Reasonable in Time, Unreasonable in Scope: Maximizing Fourth Amendment Protections Under Rodriguez v. United States

By October 1, 2023November 3rd, 2023No Comments

Abstract: In Rodriguez v. United States, the Supreme Court held that a law enforcement officer may not conduct a drug dog sniff after the completion of a routine traffic stop because doing so extends the stop without reasonable suspicion in violation of the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on unreasonable seizures. Tracing the background of Rodriguez from the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Terry v. Ohio, this Comment argues that Rodriguez is best understood as a reaction to the continued erosion of Fourth Amendment protections in the investigative stop context. Based on that understanding, this Comment argues for a strict reading of Rodriguez, under which any detour from a traffic stop’s “mission” that extends the stop for any amount of time renders the stop an unreasonable seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

While many courts have read Rodriguez in a similarly rigorous way, they differ on the question of whether every detour from a traffic stop’s mission is unlawful, or if something more akin to a reasonableness approach is more appropriate. Additionally, even among those courts that have taken the approach this Comment advocates for, there has been significant difficulty formulating a workable framework for applying Rodriguez’s rule. To address those difficulties, this Comment draws on Idaho and Kentucky case law to construct a straightforward method for applying Rodriguez in the context of a motion to suppress evidence—the primary remedy for a Fourth Amendment violation.

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