Can My Case be Dismissed Because the Officer took Too Long?

Can My Case be Dismissed Because the Officer took Too Long?

A traffic stop should be reasonably short, but often drivers are subjected to what may seem like hours of detention. Sitting behind the wheel interminably with a cop’s spotlight pointed directly in your side view mirror, you may feel like something unlawful is going on.

A police officer may hold a driver during a traffic stop, unfortunately there is no ruling as to how many minutes or seconds is permissable.

Here are some of the principles that can determine how long is too long for a traffic stop:

You can not be Unreasonably Prolonged

The U.S. Supreme Court has never given a bright-line rule with regard to how long a traffic stop can last. However you must remember that a lawful stop can become unlawful “if it is prolonged beyond the time reasonably required to complete the initial mission,”  see Illinois v. Caballes in 2005.  This means that when a cop pulls you over for a traffic stop, the officer must have some reasonable suspicion that you’ve committed a traffic or criminal offense.

Once the stop is accomplished (i.e., your car is pulled over), then the officer must investigate the offense or issue a ticket for that offense within a reasonable timeframe.  For example, if you are caught failing to stay in one lane and get pulled over, a police officer may not detain you for longer than is reasonably necessary to investigate that traffic offense — unless there is new evidence of a crime that turns up during the stop. (i.e. the officer smells alcohol eminating from your vehichle.)

The Nevada Supreme Court found in 2013 that detaining a driver after issuing a traffic warning (in order to accomplish a drug sniff) was an unreasonably long detention.

Can My Case be Dismissed Because the Officer took Too Long?

If the Officer has Probable Cause he/she May Conduct More Investigation

While a detention under reasonable suspicion must be limited in time and scope to investigating or executing the offense initially observed, an officer may prolong a traffic stop if new evidence provides probable cause for arrest or search.

For example, if an officer stops a vehicle for running a red light, smells marijuana wafting from the driver’s seat, and sees signs of intoxication from the driver, then that may provide probable cause to search the driver for marijuana and/or perform field suubriety tests. And these investigation steps may prolong an ordinary traffic stop for a bit longer than usual.

These are just a few of the factors that courts may use to determine whether a traffic stop took too long. If you feel like you were kept unreasonably long at a traffic stop, contact our office for a free consultation today.

Can My Case be Dismissed Because the Officer took Too Long?

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