CA7: Stop was pretextual but with RS; prolonging it was not

While the stop was found pretextual, but justified by reasonable suspicion of a traffic offense, it was extended unreasonably under Rodriguez and Caballes. United States v. Cole, 2021 U.S. App. LEXIS 11013 (7th Cir. Apr. 16, 2021) (dissent):

In this appeal we deal with a pretextual traffic stop for purposes of drug interdiction. Even assuming that the stop was permissible at the outset, the record shows that the officer prolonged the stop by questioning the driver at length on subjects going well beyond the legal justification for the stop. Under Rodriguez v. United States, 575 U.S. 348, 135 S. Ct. 1609, 191 L. Ed. 2d 492 (2015), prolonging the stop violated the Fourth Amendment and requires suppression of evidence found much later as a result of the actions that prolonged the stop.

. . .

The constitutional reasonableness of traffic stops does not depend on the real motives of the officers involved. In Whren v. United States, 517 U.S. 806, 818-19, 116 S. Ct. 1769, 135 L. Ed. 2d 89 (1996), the Supreme Court held that pretextual stops for minor traffic violations do not run afoul of the Fourth Amendment so long as the officer has probable cause for the driving violation.

Pretextual traffic stops are common in drug interdiction efforts, and they seem to be easy to initiate lawfully. As then-Attorney General Robert Jackson said long ago, “We know that no local police force can strictly enforce the traffic laws, or it would arrest half the driving population on any given morning.” Robert Jackson, The Federal Prosecutor, Address Delivered at the Second Annual Conference of United States Attorneys (April 1, 1940), quoted in Morrison v. Olson, 487 U.S. 654, 727-28, 108 S. Ct. 2597, 101 L. Ed. 2d 569 (1988) (Scalia, J., dissenting). Yet there are limits. One of the most important is imposed by time and the purpose that makes the stop lawful in the first place. A seizure that is “lawful at its inception” can violate the Fourth Amendment if it is “prolonged beyond the time reasonably required to complete” the initial mission of the stop. Illinois v. Caballes, 543 U.S. 405, 407, 125 S. Ct. 834, 160 L. Ed. 2d 842 (2005).

Most recently, the Supreme Court explained that 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.” Rodriguez, 575 U.S. at 350. During a traffic stop, the police officer must stick to the “mission” of the seizure: ensuring road safety, “determining whether to issue a traffic ticket, … checking the driver’s license, determining whether there are outstanding warrants against the driver, and inspecting the automobile’s registration and proof of insurance.” Id. at 355. An officer may not prolong the stop, “absent the reasonable suspicion ordinarily demanded to justify detaining an individual.” Id. In determining whether an officer had reasonable suspicion to justify prolonging a traffic stop, we consider “the totality of the circumstances” and ask whether the officer can “point to specific and articulable facts which, taken together with rational inferences from those facts, reasonably warrant th[e] intrusion.” Rodriguez-Escalera, 884 F.3d at 668 (quotation marks omitted), quoting United States v. Cortez, 449 U.S. 411, 417, 101 S. Ct. 690, 66 L. Ed. 2d 621 (1981), and Terry, 392 U.S. at 21.

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