People v. Paddy, 20172017 IL App (2d) 160395 (October). Episode 417 (Duration 14:30)
Drug interdiction patrol officer unreasonably prolonged this traffic stop for a drug dog sniff.
After stopping the Impala for following too closely, Sergeant Hain approached the open front passenger-side window.
Johnson was in the driver’s seat, Cook was in the front passenger seat, and Paddy was seated in the rear behind Johnson.
According to Sergeant Hain, Cook’s face was pale, he was trembling, and he would look only at Johnson.
Paddy was very rigid, he was pressed against the backseat, and he stared out the driver’s-side rear window.
Sergeant Hain considered Cook and Paddy to be nervous.
The female driver is asked to exit and sit in the officer’s front seat in the squad car.
After entering his squad car, Sergeant Hain began preparing a written warning for following too closely.
He also conducted a computer-records check, from which he learned that the Impala was registered in Minnesota.
As Sergeant Hain was talking with Johnson, he requested that Detective Ryan Monaghan, a K-9 handler, back him up. Although Sergeant Hain had completed the written warning, he left it on the clipboard. He then told Johnson to wait in the squad car while he spoke to Cook about an insurance card. He exited the squad car and walked back to the front passenger window.
The Insurance Card + Weed
Sergeant Hain asked Cook to look for an insurance card.
According to Sergeant Hain, as he stood at the passenger window the second time, he saw green flakes on Cook’s face, chest, and pants. Based on Sergeant Hain’s police training and experience, he decided that the flakes appeared to be cannabis.
The Drug Dog Sniff
During the K-9 sniff, the dog, which was trained to passively alert to the odor of drugs by sitting down, never did so.
Instead, the dog was very excited and attempted to jump through the window of the Impala.
Detective Monaghan had to repeatedly command the dog to smell for drugs, as the dog was distracted by Paddy’s return. According to Detective Monaghan, the dog was trained to protect and previously there had been issues with the dog being distracted by people in the vicinity of a searched vehicle. Detective Monaghan explained that, even though the dog did not passively alert to the odor of drugs, its behavior indicated that it smelled drugs in the Impala.
He added that the dog would indicate the presence of a drug odor by showing behavioral changes such as attention, drive, focus, changing its breathing pattern, perking its ears, and jumping at an object to get to the source of the odor.
Factors that affect a dog’s sense of smell include wind and whether the drugs are hidden in a deep compartment.
It is not uncommon for a dog to try to go through a window to get at the source of an odor.
Although Detective Monaghan shook his head at the conclusion of the K-9 sniff, he explained that he did so because he was frustrated by the dog being distracted by Paddy.
He told Sergeant Hain that the dog reacted to the odor of drugs in the Impala.
The Car Search
Sergeant Hain searched the Impala.
He found cannabis flakes near the handle of the front passenger door as well as a bullet in the map pocket of the door. He found a loaded handgun between the front passenger seat and the center console. He then handcuffed Cook and Paddy. He then found a second loaded handgun under the driver’s seat, $8,000 in Johnson’s purse, and a large amount of heroin in a backpack in the trunk.
Drug Dog Law
The United States Supreme Court has held that a dog sniff conducted during a lawful traffic stop does not violate the fourth amendment. Rodriguez v. United States, 575 U.S. ____, ____, 135 S. Ct. 1609, 1612 (2015) (citing Illinois v. Caballes, 543 U.S. 405 (2005)).
However, a traffic stop that exceeds the time needed to handle the matter for which the stop was made violates the fourth amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable seizures. Put another way, a seizure justified by a police-observed traffic violation becomes unlawful if it is prolonged beyond the time reasonably required to complete the mission of issuing a ticket for the violation.
In Rodriguez, the Supreme Court addressed the issue of whether a dog sniff during a traffic stop, absent reasonable suspicion, unreasonably prolonged the time to complete the purpose of the stop. Rodriguez, 575 U.S. at ____, 135 S. Ct. at 1614. In answering that question, the Court noted that the tolerable duration of a police inquiry in the traffic-stop context depends on the dual needs of addressing the traffic violation that justified the stop and attending to related safety concerns. Rodriguez, 575 U.S. at ____, 135 S. Ct. at 1614.
Because addressing the traffic violation is the overall purpose of the stop, authority for the stop ends when tasks tied to the traffic violation are, or reasonably should be, complete.
Business of A Traffic Stop
Beyond determining whether to issue a traffic ticket, an officer’s mission includes ordinary inquiries incident to a traffic stop.
Typically, such inquiries involve checking the driver’s license, determining whether there are any outstanding warrants, and inspecting the vehicle’s registration and proof of insurance. See People v. Cummings, 2016 IL 115769 (January 2016). Episode 131 (Duration 4:38).
Such checks serve the same objective of the traffic code: the safe and responsible operation of a vehicle.
A dog sniff, however, is a measure aimed at detecting evidence of crime. Accordingly, it is not an ordinary incident of a traffic stop. Thus, a dog sniff is not fairly characterized as part of the officer’s traffic mission. In rejecting the government’s contention that an officer may incrementally prolong a traffic stop to conduct a dog sniff so long as the overall duration of the stop remains comparatively reasonable, the Court reiterated that a traffic stop that is prolonged beyond the time reasonably required to complete the mission of the stop is unlawful.
Sergeant Hain had Cook and Paddy exit the Impala In this appeal, the dispositive issue is whether the mission of the traffic stop had been completed such that the dog sniff unduly prolonged the stop, in violation of the fourth amendment.
Thus, the critical question is not whether the dog sniff occurs before or after the officer issues the ticket, but whether conducting the dog sniff prolonged the stop.
The mission of the traffic stop was completed when Sergeant Hain finished the written warning.
Proof of Insurance
As the State concedes, because Illinois law did not require Johnson to provide proof of insurance, as her vehicle was properly registered in Minnesota (see 625 ILCS 5/3-402(B)(2)(a), & 3-707), Sergeant Hain mistakenly believed that he was authorized to return to the vehicle to ask Cook for proof of insurance.
That unjustified return to the vehicle unduly prolonged the traffic stop.
The State maintains, however, relying on Heien v. North Carolina, 574 U.S. ____, 135 S. Ct. 530 (2014), that, because the mistake of law was objectively reasonable, it did not unreasonably prolong the traffic stop.
Mistake Of Law
In so holding, the Court emphasized that only objectively reasonable mistakes of law will be tolerated. Heien, 574 U.S. at ____, 135 S. Ct. at 539.
Thus, an officer can gain no fourth amendment advantage through a sloppy study of the law that he is duty-bound to enforce.
Applying Heien here, we conclude that Sergeant Hain’s mistaken belief that Illinois’s liability-insurance requirements applied to a vehicle registered in Minnesota was not objectively reasonable.
That is so for the following reasons.
First, section 3-707(a) of the Illinois Vehicle Code (Vehicle Code) provides, in pertinent part, that no person shall operate a motor vehicle unless it is covered by a liability insurance policy. 625 ILCS 5/3-707(a). However, section 3-707 adds that only an operator of a motor vehicle subject to registration under the Vehicle Code is subject to a penalty under section 3-707.
Second, section 3-402(B)(2)(a) of the Vehicle Code provides, in relevant part, that vehicles subject to registration under the Vehicle Code do not include any vehicle operated interstate and properly registered in another state. 625 ILCS 5/3-402(B)(2)(a).
When read together, those provisions unambiguously provide that a vehicle properly registered in Minnesota need not comply with the liability-insurance requirements of the Vehicle Code.
Thus, Sergeant Hain, who had ascertained that the vehicle was properly registered in Minnesota, was not reasonable in his mistaken belief that Johnson needed to provide proof of insurance.
Because the law unambiguously did not require Johnson to provide proof of insurance, Sergeant Hain’s return to the vehicle to ask Cook for an insurance card did not promote any proper purpose for the stop.
Thus, it did not justify the continued detention of the vehicle.
Because Sergeant Hain unduly prolonged the traffic stop when he returned to the vehicle to ask Cook for proof of insurance, the evidence gathered thereafter—including Cook’s version of the travel itinerary, the cannabis flakes seen on Cook, the additional indicia of Cook’s and Paddy’s nervousness, and the positive dog alert—was obtained in violation of the fourth amendment.
No Probable Cause For The Search
Finally, there was no probable cause, independent of the dog sniff, to search the vehicle.
Thus, the only facts relevant to the issue of whether there was probable cause to search the vehicle were those about the travel route and Cook’s and Paddy’s apparent nervousness during Sergeant Hain’s initial presence at the vehicle.
The trial court found, however, that Sergeant Hain’s testimony that Minnesota is a destination for, and Chicago a source of, illegal drugs was alone insufficient to establish that assertion.
There needed to be some additional evidence to establish that Minnesota and Chicago are endpoints of drug trafficking. Moreover, even if they are, merely driving to and from those locations would not alone support probable cause to search for evidence of drug trafficking. Nor was the abbreviated stay in Chicago particularly suspicious in light of Johnson’s explanation that they had driven to Chicago to drop off a friend whose family member had died.
As for Cook’s and Paddy’s apparent nervousness, that alone was insufficient to provide probable cause to search the vehicle. In sum, the evidence was insufficient to provide probable cause to believe that the trio was involved in drug trafficking.
Thus, there was no probable cause independent of the dog sniff to justify the search of the vehicle.
- People v. Theus, 2016 IL App (4th) 160139 (September). Episode 238 (Car is stopped for jerking to the left when the single lane road opens up into 2 lanes.)
- People v. Cummings, 2016 IL 115769 (January 2016). Episode 131 (What is the Ordinary Scope of a Traffic Stop?)
- People v. West, 2017 IL App (3d) 130802 (March). Episode 329 (This obvious drug interdiction traffic stop was nonetheless 100% consensual.)