One of the most common defenses in a criminal case in Arizona has to do with illegal searches and seizures or unlawful detention. A recent Supreme Court case decision reinforces the importance of citizen rights at police stops. If you have questions about the time you were detained at a traffic stop, consult with your Mesa criminal defense attorney.

The case in question happened when a K-9 officer stopped an individual for a moving traffic violation. The officer collected the driver’s license, the registration, and proof of insurance from the driver. After completing the initial records check, the officer returned to the driver’s vehicle to ask further questions and then went back to his vehicle again to call for backup.

Detention Time

While the officer was waiting for the backup to arrive, he wrote a warning ticket to the driver related to the moving traffic violation. The officer then returned to the suspect’s vehicle a third time to issue the warning ticket and pass back the registration documents. Although the purpose for the stop had been completed, the officer requested permission to have the K-9 officer walk the outside of the vehicle, an action which the driver refused.

The officer then asked the driver to turn off the car and exit the vehicle. The driver complied with this action, although the driver was detained for 7-8 minutes until the second officer arrived on the scene. The K-9’s second pass around the vehicle indicated drugs inside, and this led the officers to discover a bag of Methamphetamine. The suspect was then indicted.

Defendant’s Request to Suppress Evidence

In the initial case, the defendant request suppression of evidence from the search as a result of a prolonged traffic stop after the warning citation had already been issued. The defendant alleged that the officer detained him without reasonable suspicion.

The District Court in Nebraska determined that there was no reasonable suspicion to support the continued detainment of the suspect, but a Magistrate in the District Court found a precedent related to dog sniffs. The precedent in question held that dog sniffs were not constitutionally prohibited if they occurred within a short time after the traffic stopped and only represented minimal intrusion. That judge held that the time waiting for the second officer to arrive was not in violation of the defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights.

Final Ruling for Police Stops

The case made it all the way to the Supreme Court. That court held that a stop can indeed become unlawful if the detainment of the individual in question is delayed longer than the necessary time needed for the initial stop purpose (such as issuing a ticket).

What This Means for Police Stops in Arizona

The circumstances of your police stop could be essential for your case, so you need to share them with your Mesa criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. A traffic stop, under this recent ruling, should not last any longer than the time necessary to carry out the purpose of the initial stop unless there is reasonable suspicion to detain the suspect.

This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice, please feel free to contact Mesa Criminal Attorney, Garrett L. Smith at 480-540-6021 log on to, or contact an attorney in your area.