Rodriguez v. United States, 575 U.S. ___ (2015)
Struble, a K–9 officer, stopped Rodriguez for driving on a highway shoulder, a violation of Nebraska law. Struble attended to everything relating to the stop, including checking the driver’s licenses of Rodriguez and his passenger and issuing a warning. He then sought permission to walk his dog around the vehicle. Rodriguez refused. Struble detained him until another officer arrived, then retrieved his dog, who alerted to the presence of drugs. The ensuing search revealed methamphetamine. Seven or eight minutes elapsed from the time Struble issued the warning until the dog alerted. Rodriguez was indicted. He moved to suppress the evidence on the ground that Struble had prolonged the stop without reasonable suspicion. The district court denied the motion. Rodriguez entered a conditional guilty plea. The Eighth Circuit affirmed, characterizing the delay as a “de minimis intrusion” on personal liberty. The Supreme Court vacated. Absent reasonable suspicion, extension of a traffic stop in order to conduct a dog sniff constitutes an unreasonable seizure. A routine traffic stop is like a brief “Terry” stop; its tolerable duration is determined by the “mission.” Authority for the seizure ends when tasks tied to the traffic infraction are, or reasonably should be, completed. Lacking the same close connection to roadway safety as the ordinary inquiries, a dog sniff is not fairly characterized as part of the traffic mission. An officer who completes all traffic-related tasks expeditiously does not earn extra time to pursue unrelated criminal investigations; the question is not whether the dog sniff occurs before issuance of a ticket, but whether conducting the sniff adds time to the stop. The district court determination that detention for the dog sniff was not independently supported by individualized suspicion was not reviewed by the Eighth Circuit.
Extending a routine traffic stop to conduct a dog sniff is unconstitutional as an unreasonable seizure under the Fourth Amendment unless there is a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity.
NOTE: Where it is feasible, a syllabus (headnote) will be released, as is being done in connection with this case, at the time the opinion is issued.The syllabus constitutes no part of the opinion of the Court but has been prepared by the Reporter of Decisions for the convenience of the reader.See United States v. Detroit Timber & Lumber Co., 200 U. S. 321 .
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
RODRIGUEZ v. UNITED STATES
certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the eighth circuit
No. 13–9972. Argued January 21, 2015—Decided April 21, 2015
Officer Struble, a K–9 officer, stopped petitioner Rodriguez for driving on a highway shoulder, a violation of Nebraska law. After Struble attended to everything relating to the stop, including, inter alia, checking the driver’s licenses of Rodriguez and his passenger and issuing a warning for the traffic offense, he asked Rodriguez for permission to walk his dog around the vehicle. When Rodriguez refused, Struble detained him until a second officer arrived. Struble then retrieved his dog, who alerted to the presence of drugs in the vehicle. The ensuing search revealed methamphetamine. Seven or eight minutes elapsed from the time Struble issued the written warning until the dog alerted.
Rodriguez was indicted on federal drug charges. He moved to suppress the evidence seized from the vehicle on the ground, among others, that Struble had prolonged the traffic stop without reasonable suspicion in order to conduct the dog sniff. The Magistrate Judge recommended denial of the motion. He found no reasonable suspicion supporting detention once Struble issued the written warning. Under Eighth Circuit precedent, however, he concluded that prolonging the stop by “seven to eight minutes” for the dog sniff was only a de minimis intrusion on Rodriguez’s Fourth Amendment rights and was for that reason permissible. The District Court then denied the motion to suppress. Rodriguez entered a conditional guilty plea and was sentenced to five years in prison. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. Noting that the seven or eight minute delay was an acceptable “de minimis intrusion on Rodriguez’s personal liberty,” the court declined to reach the question whether Struble had reasonable suspicion to continue Rodriguez’s detention after issuing the written warning.
1. Absent reasonable suspicion, police extension of a traffic stop in order to conduct a dog sniff violates the Constitution’s shield against unreasonable seizures.
A routine traffic stop is more like a brief stop under Terry v. Ohio, 392 U. S. 1 , than an arrest, see, e.g., Arizona v. Johnson, 555 U. S. 323 . Its tolerable duration is determined by the seizure’s “mission,” which is to address the traffic violation that warranted the stop, Illinois v. Caballes, 543 U. S. 405 and attend to related safety concerns. Authority for the seizure ends when tasks tied to the traffic infraction are—or reasonably should have been—completed. The Fourth Amendment may tolerate certain unrelated investigations that do not lengthen the roadside detention, Johnson, 555 U. S., at 327–328 (questioning); Caballes, 543 U. S., at 406, 408 (dog sniff), but a traffic stop “become[s] unlawful if it is prolonged beyond the time reasonably required to complete th[e] mission” of issuing a warning ticket, id., at 407.
Beyond determining whether to issue a traffic ticket, an officer’s mission during a traffic stop typically includes checking the driver’s license, determining whether there are outstanding warrants against the driver, and inspecting the automobile’s registration and proof of insurance. These checks serve the same objective as enforcement of the traffic code: ensuring that vehicles on the road are operated safely and responsibly. See Delaware v. Prouse, 440 U. S. 648 –659. Lacking the same close connection to roadway safety as the ordinary inquiries, a dog sniff is not fairly characterized as part of the officer’s traffic mission.
In concluding that the de minimis intrusion here could be offset by the Government’s interest in stopping the flow of illegal drugs, the Eighth Circuit relied on Pennsylvania v. Mimms, 434 U. S. 106 . The Court reasoned in Mimms that the government’s “legitimate and weighty” interest in officer safety outweighed the “de minimis” additional intrusion of requiring a driver, lawfully stopped, to exit a vehicle, id., at 110–111. The officer-safety interest recognized in Mimms, however, stemmed from the danger to the officer associated with the traffic stop itself. On-scene investigation into other crimes, in contrast, detours from the officer’s traffic-control mission and therefore gains no support from Mimms.
The Government’s argument that an officer who completes all traffic-related tasks expeditiously should earn extra time to pursue an unrelated criminal investigation is unpersuasive, for a traffic stop “prolonged beyond” the time in fact needed for the officer to complete his traffic-based inquiries is “unlawful,” Caballes, 543 U. S., at 407. The critical question is not whether the dog sniff occurs before or after the officer issues a ticket, but whether conducting the sniff adds time to the stop. Pp. 5–8.
2. The determination adopted by the District Court that detention for the dog sniff was not independently supported by individualized suspicion was not reviewed by the Eighth Circuit. That question therefore remains open for consideration on remand. P. 9.
741 F. 3d 905, vacated and remanded.
Ginsburg, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Roberts, C. J., and Scalia, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan, JJ., joined. Kennedy, J., filed a dissenting opinion. Thomas, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Alito, J., joined, and in which Kennedy, J., joined as to all but Part III. Alito, J., filed a dissenting opinion.
In Illinois v. Caballes,543 U. S. 405 (2005), this Court held that a dog sniff conducted during a lawful traffic stop does not violate the Fourth Amendmentâ€™s proscription of unreasonable seizures. This case presents the question whether the Fourth Amendment tolerates a dog sniff conducted after completion of a traffic stop. We hold that a police stop exceeding the time needed to handle the matter for which the stop was made violates the Constitutionâ€™s shield against unreasonable seizures. A seizure justified only by a police-observed traffic violation, therefore, â€œbecome[s] unlawful if it is prolonged beyond the time reasonably required to complete th[e] missionâ€ of issuing a ticket for the violation. Id., at 407. The Court so recognized in Caballes, and we adhere to the line drawn in that decision. I Just after midnight on March 27, 2012, police officer Morgan Struble observed a Mercury Mountaineer veer slowly onto the shoulder of Nebraska State Highway 275 for one or two seconds and then jerk back onto the road. Nebraska law prohibits driving on highway shoulders, see Neb. Rev. Stat. Â§60â€“6,142 (2010), and on that basis, Struble pulled the Mountaineer over at 12:06 a.m. Struble is a Kâ€“9 officer with the Valley Police Department in Ne-braska, and his dog Floyd was in his patrol car that night. Two men were in the Mountaineer: the driver, Dennys Rodriguez, and a front-seat passenger, Scott Pollman. Struble approached the Mountaineer on the passengerâ€™s side. After Rodriguez identified himself, Struble asked him why he had driven onto the shoulder. Rodriguez replied that he had swerved to avoid a pothole. Struble then gathered Rodriguezâ€™s license, registration, and proof of insurance, and asked Rodriguez to accompany him to the patrol car. Rodriguez asked if he was required to do so, and Struble answered that he was not. Rodriguez decided to wait in his own vehicle. After running a records check on Rodriguez, Struble returned to the Mountaineer. Struble asked passenger Pollman for his driverâ€™s license and began to question him about where the two men were coming from and where they were going. Pollman replied that they had traveled to Omaha, Nebraska, to look at a Ford Mustang that was for sale and that they were returning to Norfolk, Ne-braska. Struble returned again to his patrol car, where he completed a records check on Pollman, and called for a second officer. Struble then began writing a warning ticket for Rodriguez for driving on the shoulder of the road. Struble returned to Rodriguezâ€™s vehicle a third time to issue the written warning. By 12:27 or 12:28 a.m., Struble had finished explaining the warning to Rodriguez, and had given back to Rodriguez and Pollman the documents obtained from them. As Struble later testified, at that point, Rodriguez and Pollman â€œhad all their documents back and a copy of the written warning. I got all the reason[s] for the stop out of the way[,] .Â .Â . took care of all the business.â€ App. 70. Nevertheless, Struble did not consider Rodriguez â€œfree to leave.â€ Id., at 69â€“70. Although justification for the traffic stop was â€œout of the way,â€ id., at 70, Struble asked for permission to walk his dog around Rodriguezâ€™s vehicle. Rodriguez said no. Struble then instructed Rodriguez to turn off the ignition, exit the vehicle, and stand in front of the patrol car to wait for the second officer. Rodriguez complied. At 12:33 a.m., a deputy sheriff arrived. Struble retrieved his dog and led him twice around the Mountaineer. The dog alerted to the presence of drugs halfway through Strubleâ€™s second pass. All told, seven or eight minutes had elapsed from the time Struble issued the written warning until the dog indicated the presence of drugs. A search of the vehicle revealed a large bag of methamphetamine. Rodriguez was indicted in the United States District Court for the District of Nebraska on one count of possession with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.Â S.Â C. Â§Â§841(a)(1) and (b)(1). He moved to suppress the evidence seized from his car on the ground, among others, that Struble had prolonged the traffic stop without reasonable suspicion in order to conduct the dog sniff. After receiving evidence, a Magistrate Judge recommended that the motion be denied. The Magistrate Judge found no probable cause to search the vehicle independent of the dog alert. App. 100 (apart from â€œinformation given by the dog,â€ â€œOfficer Struble had [no]thing other than a rather large hunchâ€). He further found that no reasonable suspicion supported the detention once Struble issued the written warning. He concluded, however, that under Eighth Circuit precedent, extension of the stop by â€œseven to eight minutesâ€ for the dog sniff was only a de minimis intrusion on Rodriguezâ€™s Fourth Amendment rights and was therefore permissible. The District Court adopted the Magistrate Judgeâ€™s factual findings and legal conclusions and denied Rodriguezâ€™s motion to suppress. The court noted that, in the Eighth Circuit, â€œdog sniffs that occur within a short time following the completion of a traffic stop are not constitutionally prohibited if they constitute only de minimis intrusions.â€ App. 114 (quoting United States v. Alexander, 448 F.Â 3d 1014, 1016 (CA8 2006)). The court thus agreed with the Magistrate Judge that the â€œ7 to 10 minutesâ€ added to the stop by the dog sniff â€œwas not of constitu-tional significance.â€ App. 114. Impelled by that decision, Rodriguez entered a conditional guilty plea and was sentenced to five years in prison. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The â€œseven- or eight-minute delayâ€ in this case, the opinion noted, resembled delays that the court had previously ranked as permissible. 741 F.Â 3d 905, 907 (2014). The Court of Appeals thus ruled that the delay here constituted an acceptable â€œde minimis intrusion on Rodriguezâ€™s personal liberty.â€ Id., at 908. Given that ruling, the court declined to reach the question whether Struble had reasonable suspicion to continue Rodriguezâ€™s detention after issuing the written warning. We granted certiorari to resolve a division among lower courts on the question whether police routinely may extend an otherwise-completed traffic stop, absent reason-able suspicion, in order to conduct a dog sniff. 573 U.Â S. ___ (2014). Compare, e.g., United States v. Morgan, 270 F.Â 3d 625, 632 (CA8 2001) (postcompletion delay of â€œwell under ten minutesâ€ permissible), with, e.g., State v. Baker, 2010 UT 18, Â¶13, 229 P.Â 3d 650, 658 (2010) (â€œ[W]ithout additional reasonable suspicion, the officer must allow the seized person to depart once the purpose of the stop has concluded.â€). II A seizure for a traffic violation justifies a police investigation of that violation. â€œ[A] relatively brief encounter,â€ a routine traffic stop is â€œmore analogous to a so-called â€˜Terry stopâ€™ .Â .Â . than to a formal arrest.â€ Knowles v. Iowa,525 U.Â S. 113,117 (1998) (quoting Berkemer v. McCarty,468 U.Â S. 420,439 (1984), in turn citing Terry v. Ohio,392 U.Â S. 1 (1968)). See also Arizona v. Johnson,555 U.Â S. 323,330 (2009). Like a Terry stop, the tolerable duration of police inquiries in the traffic-stop context is determined by the seizureâ€™s â€œmissionâ€â€”to address the traffic violation that warranted the stop, Caballes, 543 U.Â S., at 407, and attend to related safety concerns, infra, at 6â€“7. See also United States v. Sharpe,470 U.Â S. 675,685 (1985); Florida v. Royer,460 U.Â S. 491,500 (1983) (plurality opinion) (â€œThe scope of the detention must be carefully tailored to its underlying justification.â€). Because addressing the infraction is the purpose of the stop, it may â€œlast no longer than is necessary to effectuate th[at] purpose.â€ Ibid. See also Caballes, 543 U.Â S., at 407. Authority for the seizure thus ends when tasks tied to the traffic infraction areâ€”or reasonably should have beenâ€”completed. See Sharpe, 470 U.Â S., at 686 (in determining the reasonable duration of a stop, â€œit [is] appropriate to examine whether the police diligently pursued [the] investigationâ€). Our decisions in Caballes and Johnson heed these constraints. In both cases, we concluded that the Fourth Amendment tolerated certain unrelated investigations that did not lengthen the roadside detention. Johnson, 555 U.Â S., at 327â€“328 (questioning); Caballes, 543 U.Â S., at 406, 408 (dog sniff). In Caballes, however, we cautioned that a traffic stop â€œcan become unlawful if it is prolonged beyond the time reasonably required to complete th[e] missionâ€ of issuing a warning ticket. 543 U.Â S., at 407. And we repeated that admonition in Johnson: The seizure remains lawful only â€œso long as [unrelated] inquiries do not measurably extend the duration of the stop.â€ 555 U.Â S., at 333. See also Muehler v. Mena,544 U.Â S. 93,101 (2005) (because unrelated inquiries did not â€œexten[d] the time [petitioner] was detained[,] .Â .Â . no additional Fourth Amendment justification .Â .Â . was requiredâ€). An officer, in other words, may conduct certain unrelated checks during an otherwise lawful traffic stop. But contrary to Justice Alitoâ€™s suggestion, post, at 4, n.Â 2, he may not do so in a way that prolongs the stop, absent the reasonable suspicion ordinarily demanded to justify detaining an individ-ual. But see post, at 1â€“2 (Alito, J., dissenting) (premising opinion on the dissentâ€™s own finding of â€œreasonable suspicion,â€ although the District Court reached the opposite conclusion, and the Court of Appeals declined to consider the issue). Beyond determining whether to issue a traffic ticket, an officerâ€™s mission includes â€œordinary inquiries incident to [the traffic] stop.â€ Caballes, 543 U.Â S., at 408. Typically such inquiries involve checking the driverâ€™s license, determining whether there are outstanding warrants against the driver, and inspecting the automobileâ€™s registration and proof of insurance. See Delaware v. Prouse,440 U.Â S. 648â€“660 (1979). See also 4 W. LaFave, Search and Seizure Â§9.3(c), pp. 507â€“517 (5th ed. 2012). These checks serve the same objective as enforcement of the traffic code: ensuring that vehicles on the road are operated safely and responsibly. See Prouse, 440 U.Â S., at 658â€“659; LaFave, Search and Seizure Â§9.3(c), at 516 (A â€œwarrant check makes it possible to determine whether the apparent traffic violator is wanted for one or more previous traffic offenses.â€). A dog sniff, by contrast, is a measure aimed at â€œdetect[ing] evidence of ordinary criminal wrongdoing.â€ Indianapolis v. Edmond,531 U.Â S. 32â€“41 (2000). See also Florida v. Jardines,569 U.Â S. 1, ___â€“___ (2013) (slip op., at 7â€“8). Candidly, the Government acknowledged at oral argument that a dog sniff, unlike the routine measures just mentioned, is not an ordinary incident of a traffic stop. See Tr. of Oral Arg. 33. Lacking the same close connection to roadway safety as the ordinary inquiries, a dog sniff is not fairly characterized as part of the officerâ€™s traffic mission. In advancing its de minimis rule, the Eighth Circuit relied heavily on our decision in Pennsylvania v. Mimms,434 U.Â S. 106 (1977) (per curiam). See United States v. $404,905.00 in U.Â S. Currency, 182 F.Â 3d 643, 649 (CA8 1999). In Mimms, we reasoned that the governmentâ€™s â€œlegitimate and weightyâ€ interest in officer safety outweighs the â€œde minimisâ€ additional intrusion of requiring a driver, already lawfully stopped, to exit the vehicle. 434 U.Â S., at 110â€“111. See also Maryland v. Wilson,519 U.Â S. 408â€“415 (1997) (passengers may be required to exit vehicle stopped for traffic violation). The Eighth Circuit, echoed in Justice Thomasâ€™s dissent, believed that the imposition here similarly could be offset by the Governmentâ€™s â€œstrong interest in interdicting the flow of illegal drugs along the nationâ€™s highways.â€ $404,905.00 in U.Â S. Currency, 182 F.Â 3d, at 649; see post, at 9. Unlike a general interest in criminal enforcement, however, the governmentâ€™s officer safety interest stems from the mission of the stop itself. Traffic stops are â€œespecially fraught with danger to police officers,â€ Johnson, 555 U.Â S., at 330 (internal quotation marks omitted), so an officer may need to take certain negligibly burdensome precautions in order to complete his mission safely. Cf. United States v. Holt, 264 F.Â 3d 1215, 1221â€“1222 (CA10 2001) (en banc) (recognizing officer safety justification for criminal record and outstanding warrant checks), abrogated on other grounds as recognized in United States v. Stewart, 473 F.Â 3d 1265, 1269 (CA10 2007). On-scene investigation into other crimes, however, detours from that mission. See supra, at 6â€“7. So too do safety precautions taken in order to facilitate such detours. But cf. post, at 2â€“3 (Alito, J., dissenting). Thus, even assuming that the imposition here was no more intrusive than the exit order in Mimms, the dog sniff could not be justified on the same basis. Highway and officer safety are interests different in kind from the Governmentâ€™s endeavor to detect crime in general or drug trafficking in particular. The Government argues that an officer may â€œincremental[ly]â€ prolong a stop to conduct a dog sniff so long as the officer is reasonably diligent in pursuing the traffic-related purpose of the stop, and the overall duration of the stop remains reasonable in relation to the duration of other traffic stops involving similar circumstances. Brief for United States 36â€“39. The Governmentâ€™s argument, in effect, is that by completing all traffic-related tasks expeditiously, an officer can earn bonus time to pursue an unrelated criminal investigation. See also post, at 2â€“5 (Thomas, J., dissenting) (embracing the Governmentâ€™s argument). The reasonableness of a seizure, however, depends on what the police in fact do. See Knowles, 525 U.Â S., at 115â€“117. In this regard, the Government acknowledges that â€œan officer always has to be reasonably diligent.â€ Tr. of Oral Arg. 49. How could diligence be gauged other than by noting what the officer actually did and how he did it? If an officer can complete traffic-based inquiries expeditiously, then that is the amount of â€œtime reasonably required to complete [the stopâ€™s] mission.â€ Caballes, 543 U. S., at 407. As we said in Caballes and reiterate today, a traffic stop â€œprolonged beyondâ€ that point is â€œunlawful.â€ Ibid. The critical question, then, is not whether the dog sniff occurs before or after the officer issues a ticket, as Justice Alito supposes, post, at 2â€“4, but whether conducting the sniff â€œprolongsâ€â€”i.e., adds time toâ€”â€œthe stop,â€ supra, at 6. III The Magistrate Judge found that detention for the dog sniff in this case was not independently supported by individualized suspicion, see App. 100, and the District Court adopted the Magistrate Judgeâ€™s findings, see id., at 112â€“113. The Court of Appeals, however, did not review that determination. But see post, at 1, 10â€“12 (Thomas, J., dissenting) (resolving the issue, nevermind that the Court of Appeals left it unaddressed); post, at 1â€“2 (Alito, J., dissenting) (upbraiding the Court for addressing the sole issue decided by the Court of Appeals and characterizing the Courtâ€™s answer as â€œunnecessaryâ€ because the Court, instead, should have decided an issue the Court of Appeals did not decide). The question whether reasonable suspicion of criminal activity justified detaining Rodriguez beyond completion of the traffic infraction investigation, therefore, remains open for Eighth Circuit consideration on remand. *â€ƒâ€ƒ*â€ƒâ€ƒ* For the reasons stated, the judgment of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit is vacated, and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. It is so ordered.