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Extending Routine Traffic Stops Without Reasonable Suspicion is Unconstitutional
Takeaway: a law enforcement officer may not conduct a dog sniff of a car after an officer completes a traffic stop unless an officer can state specific facts justifying the extension of the stop.
Rodriguez v. United States:
On April 21, 2015, the United States Supreme Court issued an opinion in Rodriguez v. United States, a case where an officer conducted a dog sniff of Rodriguez’s car after completing a traffic stop. In Rodriguez, the officer pulled Rodriguez over for driving on the shoulder of the road, which is a traffic infraction in Nebraska. The officer checked Rodriguez’s driver’s license and issued Rodriguez a warning for the traffic offense. The officer then asked Rodriguez if he could walk his dog around Rodriguez’s car, which he refused. Upon refusal, the officer immediately detained Rodriguez until a second officer arrived at the scene, at which point the officer walked the dog around the car. The dog alerted to the car, which resulted in a search of the car revealing methamphetamine. The traffic stop was extended approximately 8 minutes to allow the dog to sniff around Rodriguez’s car.
Rodriguez was indicted on federal drug charges and later sentenced to five years in prison. Rodriguez then filed a Motion to Suppress the evidence seized from his car because the officer detained him without reasonable suspicion of the presence of drugs, which prolonged the traffic stop an unreasonable amount of time (approximately eight minutes). The Motion to Suppress was denied by the magistrate court, district court, and eventually the Eighth Circuit Court.
On appeal from the Eighth Circuit, the United States Supreme Court agreed to hear Rodriguez’s case. The Supreme Court found that the officer’s actions violated Rodriguez’s Fourth Amendment rights. The Court held that reasonable suspicion is required to extend a traffic stop and conduct a dog sniff. In other words, without specific facts (more than a hunch) indicating that drugs are present in a car, a dog sniff of a car is not allowed after a traffic stop has been completed. Because of this, under Rodriguez, an officer must be able to state specific facts that indicate drugs exist in a car to extend a traffic stop. If an officer cannot show such facts exist, then a dog sniff conducted after completion of a traffic stop will be considered unreasonable and any evidence seized from the car may be suppressed.
The Supreme Court’s opinion in Rodriguez was based off the purpose of an everyday traffic stop. The purpose of a traffic stop, ordinarily, is to address the traffic violation authorizing the officer to stop a car, which includes “determining whether there are outstanding warrants against the driver, and inspecting the automobile’s registration and proof of insurance.” Once the purpose of the stop is fulfilled, the individual pulled over should be allowed to go on his or her way.
The purpose of a traffic stop is not to find drugs or “sniff” out other illegal activity. If an officer does not become aware of specific facts that suggest other criminal activity exists during a stop, then an officer may not extend the stop. This is exactly what happened in Rodriguez and what is now considered a violation of an individual’s Fourth Amendment rights.
No contact orders (“NCO”) usually arise out of cases dealing with domestic violence or where other types of violence occur against a victim. When a person violates a NCO by contacting a person protected by the order, serious legal consequences can result, including jail time, probation, community service, and fines and costs.
Idaho law gives courts the authority to issue “an order forbidding contact with another person.” Idaho Code § 18-920. A violation of a NCO occurs when a NCO has been issued and “the person charged or convicted has had contact with the stated person in violation of an order.” Idaho Code § 18-920(2).
NCOs also contain language which states in relevant part: a “Defendant shall not contact (including: in person or through another person, or in writing or e-mail, or by telephone, pager, or facsimile) or attempt to contact. . .or knowingly remain within 100 feet” of the protected person. State v. Herren, 339 P.3d 1126, 1130 (2014).
In a recent decision from December 9, 2014, the Idaho Supreme Court addressed whether the crime of violating a NCO is defined by Idaho Code § 18-920 or a NCO. Id. at 1128.
In Herren, a NCO was issued to protect Kip McDermott from his neighbor, Nathan Herren. The court issued a NCO against Mr. Herren after he tore down a portion of Mr. McDermott’s fence and was charged and convicted of malicious injury to property. Id. Later, Mr. Herren attended a homeowners’ association meeting that Mr. McDermott was also attending and Mr. McDermott called law enforcement to report that Mr. Herren was violating his NCO. Id.
The magistrate court found Mr. Herren guilty of violating the terms of the NCO because he knowingly remained within 100 feet of Mr. McDermott. Id.
However, Mr. Herren appealed, and the Idaho Supreme Court eventually heard his case. The Court focused its analysis on the plain language of Idaho Code § 18-920, which specifically prohibits “contact with the stated person in violation of the order (emphasis added).” Id. at 1130. The Court then referenced the language found in the NCO which states that: a “defendant shall not contact or attempt to contact. . .or knowingly remain within 100 feet (emphasis added)” of the protected person. Id. The Court explained that the use of the word “or” to separate the term contact from knowingly remaining within 100 feet, was meant to give separate meaning to the terms (emphasis added). Id.
As a result, the Court held that Mr. Herren was not guilty of violating the NCO because Idaho Code § 18-920 only prohibits contact with a protected party and Mr. Herren did not contact Mr. McDermott as that term is normally understood (emphasis added). Id. So, even though the Court noted that Mr. Herren willfully remained within 100 feet of Mr. McDermott in violation of the NCO, his conduct was not a violation of Idaho Code § 18-920. Id.
The Court emphasized that if it gave authority to the language found within the NCO, it would be giving judges the power to define criminal conduct. Id. at 1131. The Court stated that it is the legislature’s job to fix this problem, not the courts.
The takeaway from the Herren case is that Idaho Code § 18-920 prohibits contact with a person protected by a NCO and the word “contact” is to be given its ordinary meaning. “Contact” includes physically touching or being within a close proximity to a person, calling, emailing, facebooking, tweeting, or other contact via social media, or attempting to contact someone through another person.
However, this does not mean that it is advisable for a person who has a NCO issued against them to willfully remain in close proximity to the protected person. The best course of action is to stay away from the protected person and their residence until the NCO time period lapses or the NCO is lifted.
DRUG CONVICTIONS AND FINANCIAL AID FOR STUDENTS
Is it true that drug convictions might affect a student's ability to get federal student aid?
Yes - Your eligibility might be suspended if the offense occurred while you were receiving federal student aid (grants, loans, or work-study). When you complete the FAFSA, you will be asked whether you had a drug conviction for an offense that occurred while you were receiving federal student aid. If the answer is yes, you will be provided a worksheet to help you determine whether your conviction affects your eligibility for federal student aid.
If your eligibility for federal student aid has been suspended due to a drug conviction, you can regain eligibility early by successfully completing an approved drug rehabilitation program or by passing two unannounced drug tests administered by an approved drug rehabilitation program.
If you are convicted of a drug-related offense after you submit the FAFSA, you might lose eligibility for federal student aid, and you might be liable for returning any financial aid you received during a period of ineligibility.
Find more information on this topic at How do drug-related convictions affect my student loan eligibility?
Idaho enforces minor in possession (MIP) laws to discourage underage drinking and the possession of alcohol by anyone under the age of 21.
Drinking and Possessing Alcohol
It is illegal in Idaho for anyone under the age of 21 to possess, purchase, attempt to purchase, or serve alcoholic beverages. However, people who are 19 years or older may serve or dispense liquor during his or her employment in any place that is licensed to sell alcohol, including restaurants and retail locations. Violating this law will result in being charged with a misdemeanor offense.
On October 29, 2014, the Idaho Supreme Court held that Idaho’s implied consent statute is not a valid exception to the warrant requirement for blood draws. State v. Wulff. This means that Idaho’s implied consent statute no longer gives police the power to draw your blood without a warrant and therefore Idaho drivers may refuse to submit to blood draws on this basis.
There are, however, still situations in which a police officer may draw your blood without a warrant. In those cases, determining whether or not a police needs a warrant to draw your blood is assessed case by case and based on the totality of the circumstances. And while the a person’s natural metabolism of alcohol by itself is not recognized as an exception to the warrant requirement, it is a factor that courts consider when determining if a warrantless blood draw is ok.
The takeaway from State v. Wulff is that Idaho’s implied consent laws do not give police officers the power to perform forced blood draws without a warrant. It is also still important to note that in some situations warrantless blood draws are still allowed, but those exceptions are determined by considering the circumstances in each case.
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I recommend Jeffery Nona.
When we first faced this complex and serious criminal charge against our daughter , Jeff Nona took on the challenge by immediately visiting her at the jail and then contacted us to report what he could do and advice on how to proceed with this new frightful issue in our family that we had never experienced before.
Often we were fearful and he'd explained the challenges a head of us and because of his vast knowledge and experience we always felt relieved and comforted about what to expect. Jeff immediately responded to all our questions and reassured us that things were on target and what to expect next. We gained a trust in his ability to have our daughter's best interest at heart and he spend quality necessary time with her and our family. In this way it helped her to retain her dignity as well and alleviate our family's concern. We saw that he was highly regarded and respected among his legals associates. His legal staff, Lisa was in lock step with Jeff and our case and did everything to maintain a professional and highly knowledgable service.
We would highly recommend him to others who are facing serious legal charges to take on your case.
How much do you have to drink (BAC*) for a DUI in Idaho?
21 or older
I got pulled over for DUI. Can a police officer draw my blood without a warrant?
Short answer, maybe. A police officer might be able to draw your blood without a warrant, but will likely obtain a warrant before drawing your blood.
In April of 2013, in the case of Missouri v. McNeely, the United States Supreme Court held that a police officer is required to obtain a warrant before drawing your blood because your body’s natural metabolism of alcohol doesn’t create the immediate necessity required to permit a warrantless blood draw.
However, while police are generally required to obtain a warrant before drawing your blood, there are two situations where a police officer can probably draw your blood without a warrant.
First, a police officer can probably draw your blood without a warrant based on the “implied consent” you gave by driving on Idaho’s roads. In other words, by driving on Idaho’s roads you are consenting to a blood alcohol content (BAC) test because of the benefits you receive from using those roads. While there are strong arguments against this theory, some Idaho courts still use it to uphold warrantless blood draws.
Second, a police officer is allowed draw your blood without a warrant when exigent circumstances exist. Exigent circumstances are those situations that demand immediate police action. The exigency of every situation is judged on a case-by-case basis with special attention paid to the circumstances that lead up to the situation.
So, for instance, a few situations where a warrantless blood draw would be allowed include where you were involved in a car crash or where a child is present in your vehicle.
Even if exigent circumstances don’t exist, it’s easy for a police officer to get a warrant to draw your blood. As long as a police officer can show that there is probable cause to suggest you under the influence of alcohol, a warrant can be obtained.
Once probable cause is shown, a warrant is only a phone call or two away. Either the arresting police officer or a local prosecutor will call the judge, explain the facts of the situation supporting probable cause, and the judge will normally issue a warrant to draw your blood.
However, if a judge does not issue a warrant and the police draw your blood anyway, your Fourth Amendment rights might have been violated and it’s possible that your BAC results from your blood draw cannot be used as evidence against you.
Devon Wilson, Marketing, PR