Officer’s routine question about “Anything illegal in the car: Human beings, guns, drugs, dead bodies in the trunk” wasn’t unreasonable and didn’t measurably extend the stop. State v. Medina, 2020 Del. Super. LEXIS 18 (Jan. 7, 2020):
3. Cpl. Stevens’ additional questioning did not measurably extend the traffic stop.
Umoffia concedes it was lawful for Cpl. Stevens to ask follow up questions to confirm or dispel his suspicions. Umoffia, however, argues Cpl. Stevens’ question of whether there was anything illegal in the vehicle (such as human beings, guns, drugs, or dead bodies) was overly broad and not an acceptable part of routine traffic stop questioning. Umoffia contends this question “did not significantly prolong the stop, [but] ‘for something to be measurable it need not be large ….'”
“Although questions unrelated to the initial justification for the stop might not per se require reasonable suspicion or consent to further question, the Delaware Supreme Court has made clear that such inquiries must not measurably extend the duration of the stop.” In the context of this case, and particularly the nature of the officers’ questioning and their inability to confirm Medina’s identity, Cpl. Steven’s question about contraband in the vehicle did not measurably extend the stop beyond its initial purpose. The Delaware Supreme Court reached a similar decision in Pierce v. State, finding “an officer’s question about whether there was any contraband in the vehicle during a traffic stop did not constitute a second investigative detention because the trial court found that it was a question the officer routinely asked as part of a traffic stop.”
Here, at the conclusion of Cpl. Steven’s questioning, he asked Medina and Umoffia if there was “[a]nything illegal in the car: [h]uman beings, guns, drugs, dead bodies in the trunk[.]” This specific question was asked during the initial questioning and before the dog sniff. Cpl. Stevens testified that he has asked that question during traffic stops throughout his 12-13 year career as a police officer when there is any kind of indicator “there might be something more than just a simple traffic stop.” Moreover, while Cpl. Stevens was questioning Medina and Umoffia, PFC Vari still was in his police vehicle trying to confirm Medina’s identity. Accordingly, this question did not measurably extend the stop.