S.D.W.Va.: The single question “Is there anything illegal in the car” doesn’t unlawfully extend the stop

“Even assuming here that the single question, whether there is anything illegal in the car, was not related to the mission of the traffic stop, the question did not violate the Fourth Amendment because it did not lengthen the traffic stop.” United States v. Buzzard, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 149242 (S.D. W.Va. Sept. 3, 2019):

In this case, the officer asked the single question, whether there was anything illegal in the car. Police Report [ECF No. 32-1] 2. Because the question is related to officer safety, the question is therefore related to the mission of the stop itself. See Rodriguez, 135 S. Ct. at 1615. The question could expose dangerous weapons or narcotics. Courts have already recognized the authority of “officers conducting a traffic stop [to] inquire about dangerous weapons.” United States v. Everett, 601 F.3d 484, 495 (6th Cir. 2010) (“[I]t would be irrational to conclude that officers cannot take the ‘less intrusive [measure]’ of ‘simply [asking] whether a driver has a gun.'”); see also Johnson, 555 U.S. at 327 (finding that a stop, which included the officer asking if there were any weapons in the vehicle, was a legitimate stop). This single question is certainly less intrusive than ordering the driver and passengers out of the car. See Mimms, 434 U.S. at 110-11; see also Wilson, 519 U.S. at 413-15. As another court has reasoned, “If a police officer may, in the interest of officer safety, order all occupants out of the vehicle for the duration of the stop without violating the Fourth Amendment, the officer may take a less burdensome precaution to ensure officer safety.” State v. Wright, 2019 WI 45, 386 Wis. 2d 495, 926 N.W.2d 157, 163.

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