Carson City Sheriff Ken Furlong says Supreme Court ruling has little impact on department
A U.S. Supreme Court decision will hinder law enforcement from unduly delaying traffic stops in order to wait for a K-9 unit to arrive on scene. However, Carson City Sheriff Ken Furlong said the ruling won’t have a large impact on the office.
Justices determined Tuesday the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable search and seizure, doesn’t allow a completed traffic stop to be prolonged for any period of time in the absence of independent probable cause or reasonable suspicion justifying the extension of the stop, The Associated Press reported. This means, officers can’t prolong a traffic stop to get a K-9 unit if the K-9 is needed for a cause unrelated to the initial traffic stop.
The decision came when the court ruled 6-3 in favor of Nebraska driver Dennys Rodriguez who was stopped and found to be transporting a large bag of methamphetamine following a dog sniff. The court held a traffic stop was lengthened to conduct the dog sniff without reasonable suspicion and deemed it unreasonable search and seizure.
Furlong met with the Carson City District Attorney’s Office this week to discuss how this ruling would impact their departments. Furlong said he didn’t believe the ruling would impact the department much.
“We just need to create a plan to educate our officers, especially our K-9 unit,” Furlong said. “I believe it will have little impact on our ability to serve our town. We have already started training to adjust our procedure (for traffic stops).”
It isn’t common for the department to use its K-9s in conjunction with a traffic stop, Furlong said.
“When the K-9s get called, there is usually a reasonable reason for the investigation,” he said.
According to the Sheriff’s Department, there are an average of 800 traffic stops a month, with 40 percent of those resulting in nothing more than a warning. The K-9 dogs only get called out a fraction of the time, for about an average of 100 traffic stops.
Furlong said he supports the new ruling.
“The K-9 is an advantage to officers, but to use them to violate a traffic stop is not OK,” Furlong said. “It makes perfect sense, it is good to take it as a positive decision.”
Furlong said just because officers can’t delay a traffic stop to wait for a K-9, they still can conduct their own criminal investigation if there’s probable cause.