The Nevada Supreme Court has upheld an Elko judge’s decision to toss out drug evidence seized after a traffic stop, saying the driver’s constitutional rights were violated.
Kent Beckman was stopped for speeding, given a warning by the trooper and told “everything looks good.”
But when Beckman tried to leave, the officer ordered him to remain until a drug-sniffing dog could arrive. The dog alerted his handler to the presence of drugs, a search found cocaine and methamphetamine in the vehicle, and Beckman was arrested and charged.
According to the unanimous opinion: “A traffic stop that is legitimate when initiated becomes illegitimate when the officer details the car and driver beyond the time required to process the traffic offense.”
Detaining the driver must be justified by his or her consent or a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity.
“The prolonged stop in this case met none of these exceptions and violated the United States and Nevada Constitutions,” the opinion states.
The high court pointed out that, as seen in the videotape, Beckman was polite and responsive throughout the stop. But he exercised his right to deny the officer permission to search the vehicle, after which the trooper told Beckman he was no longer free to leave.
Elko District Judge Michael Memeo initially tossed the drug evidence.