The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that police officers may not extend a traffic stop in order to bring in a drug-sniffing dog. The Justices ruled that the police must let the driver leave unless they have specific reasons to suspect the vehicle is carrying contraband. In a 6-3 decision, the Court held that the 7-8 minute delay in the stop to use the trained dog was unconstitutional. Justice Ginsburg, writing for the majority, reasoned, “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 recent years, the Court has been chipping away at Fourth Amendment rights to protection against unreasonable search and seizure. This case is a step in the opposite direction, and will hopefully signal a return to increased protections for suspects. In many situations, New Jersey affords increased protections to suspects over the federal Constitution.