Suppression ordered where police extended scope of a traffic stop for mere minutes

Villanueva v. State, 2D15-1422 (February 10, 2016)

This case involved a traffic stop for failing to stop at a stop sign.  The officer conducted the stop, approached the defendant to ask for identification and returned to a DL/warrants check.  He determined that there were no outstanding warrants; however, he learned that the defendant was on probation.  Instead of completing the citation, he returned to the defendant and inquired about his probation status.  He asked the defendant out of the vehicle and requested permission to search him for weapons.  The defendant acquiesced because he thought he had no other option.  During the search, the police located narcotics.  The officer did not recall whether he returned the defendant’s license to him prior to the search, but indicated that it was common for him to retain the license until the citation was completed.  He did not complete the citation until after the entire incident.  The encounter lasted 11 minutes

Although the entire encounter was seemingly de minimis, the DCA held that the police exceeded the scope of the traffic stop by returning to the vehicle to question the defendant about his probation instead of completing the citation.  Although the defendant consented to the search, the consent was invalid.  He did so while not free to leave, and under the mistaken belief that he had no choice.  Suppression was required.

Note:  This case can be compared to the US Supreme Court case of Rodriguez v. US, 135 S.Ct. 1609 (2015) wherein the US Supreme Court addressed the issue of prolonging traffic stops for K9 searches even when the extended time is de minimis.


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