Wednesday, April 22, 2015

SCOTUS: Police Cannot Prolong Traffic Stops for Dog Sniff Without Reasonable Suspicion

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court held in Rodriguez v. U.S. that detaining a driver stopped for a traffic violation longer than necessary to issue a citation violates the driver's Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches/seizures.  In this case, a police officer in Nebraska detained a driver for failing to remain in his lane, and after the officer had run a review of the driver's record and determined there were no outstanding warrants/violations, issued the driver a citation.  However, and despite the admitted absence of probable cause or reasonable suspicion, the officer refused to let the driver go on his way until a canine unit arrived to conduct a dog sniff of the driver's vehicle.  The government argued that the detention of the driver was not unreasonable in that it was a minimal, temporary inconvenience to the driver and that dog sniffs were a common tool of law enforcement.

SCOTUS disagreed, and reiterated rules it had laid out in previous cases holding that the length of an investigatory detention is governed by the scope of the reasonable suspicion that justifies the detention.  While the stop of the driver's vehicle was justified, continuing the detention after the traffic matter was resolved without additional legal grounds was not. 

It is significant to note that the driver in this case did NOT consent to the extended detention or subsequent dog sniff and search of his vehicle.  Consenting to police detentions and/or searches constitutes a WAIVER of your Constitutional rights.  You should never consent to a waiver of your rights for any reason unless/until you have conferred with experienced legal counsel.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Leglislative impacts on DUI and ID

Governor Hickenlooper recently signed new legislation impacting DUI driver's license revocation hearings and criminal identification procedures.

HB15-1073 corrects a confusing and unreasonable decision handed down by the Colorado Supreme Court in Francen v. Dept. of Revenue, which held that, despite language in Colorado statutes permitting drivers to challenge the basis for police contact in appealing a driver's license revocation based on the Express Consent law mandating chemical testing of suspected impaired drivers, DMV hearing officers did not have to ignore evidence obtained from improper/unconstitutional vehicle stops.  The new law requires DMV hearing officers to suppress evidence resulting from an invalid or unconstitutional stop of an appellant driver, legislatively overruling Francen.

SB15-58 will require all state law enforcement agencies to adopt procedures relating to eyewitness identifications with the aim of improving the accuracy of suspect IDsRecent studies have shown that many witness ID methods employed by law enforcement are unreliable and susceptible to serious bias/error; this law will attempt to prevent past common procedures that have come to be proven problematic at best and utterly unreliable at worst.