The Reasonable Length of Detention During a Traffic Stop

The legal duration of a traffic stop was recently subject to deliberation in the United States Supreme Court, Jason Nathaniel Carter v. State of Maryland, No. 290, Sept. Term, 2017. The court found that U.S. Constitutional Law deems that law enforcement detention of a driver during a traffic stop should be within reasonable and permissible limits.

Traffic Stops and Constitutional Law 

In Carter v. Maryland, the law enforcement officer party to the matter had not completed a citation for traffic violations when a canine officer produced a positive alert indicating presence of a controlled and dangerous substance. While the plaintiff claimed that the officer delayed processing of the traffic citations, the defense argued that the traffic stop was underway at time of the canine search. No misconduct on behalf of the officer was found, despite record of temporary pause from processing the traffic citation to request the driver to exit the vehicle and brief the other officers before the canine scan could be performed. At no time, found the court, did the officer abandon the process or impermissibly delay the traffic stop. 

Establishing Reasonability and Permissibility 

Court review of criminal cases involving traffic stop search and seizure by law enforcement focuses on establishing that the duration of detention was reasonable and permissible under state and federal constitutional law. The legal record illustrates precedent to Carter v. Maryland in comparable court cases, where similar circumstances of a suspect claiming that they had been detained at a traffic stop for an inordinate time for possession of illicit narcotics, State of Connecticut v. Christopher Jenkins, No. 18077, Sept. 2010.

The Connecticut Supreme Court determined that federal law permitted the officer to conduct a lawful search of the defendant’s vehicle; and that search was voluntarily consented to and not measurably prolonged. Reasonable suspicion that a motorist is impaired is adequate reason to prolong a traffic stop. Constitutional law, therefore, it has been determined, does not provide increased protections of narcotics suspects with respect to requests for consent for search, and nontraffic related questioning during a routine traffic stop. 

Probable Cause: Reason for Investigation 

While detention of a motorist under reasonable suspicion still must be limited to a permissible time and scope under state law, constitutional law provides that probable cause must be present for an investigation to be initiated. Observation of new evidence during a traffic stop is considered sufficient probable cause for arrest or search. Defendants seeking to file a legal claim for unreasonable detention at a traffic stop should consult with a licensed attorney at law experienced in criminal defense.

Criminal Defense Requires a Licensed Attorney 

A claim that a law enforcement officer has violated your constitutional right to a timely citation of a traffic stop is a certain legal challenge. This is especially the case when a traffic stop has led to search and seizure of a plaintiff’s vehicle, and subsequent criminal defense for narcotics possession. The attorneys at Brassel Alexander, LLC are licensed and experienced at criminal defense. Contact Brassel Alexander, LLC in Maryland for a legal consultation.   

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