United States v. Evans

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Procedure
  • Date Filed: 05-20-2015
  • Case #: 14-10024
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Berzon for the Court; Circuit Judges Reinhardt and Fisher
  • Full Text Opinion

Evidence obtained during a traffic stop that was prolonged beyond the time reasonably required to complete the traffic mission is a violation of the Fourth Amendment, unless there is independent reasonable suspicion to justify the delay.

James Evans was pulled over by Deputy Brandon Zirkle of the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office for committing two traffic violations. Zirkle conducted routine license and registration checks on Evans, which returned with clean records. Zirkle then requested an ex-felon registration check on Evans. After more than eight minutes, the operator informed Zirkle that Evans was properly registered as a felon in the state of Nevada. Zirkle gave Evans a warning for the traffic infractions, and told Evans he was “good to go.” However, just as Evans was walking away, Zirkle asked Evans whether there were any contraband in the vehicle, since Zirkle smelled methamphetamine during the stop, and requested consent from Evans to search the vehicle. Evans denied the request, but Zirkle believed he had reasonable suspicion to have a narcotic detection dog check the vehicle. Contraband and a firearm were found after the resulting search, which led to Evans’s arrest. The district court granted Evans’s motion to suppress the evidence obtained during the search, however, on appeal, the Ninth Circuit vacated the order. Applying traffic stop guidelines outlined in Rodriguez v. United States, the panel concluded that Evans’s Fourth Amendment rights were violated because the ex-felon registration check and use of the narcotic detection dog were unrelated to the traffic infractions, and “‘prolonged the traffic stop beyond the time reasonably required to complete’” the initial mission. The panel noted that “independent reasonable suspicion” was needed to justify the delay. The panel concluded that the district court did not inquire on the “findings of historical fact” in resolving the dispute regarding reasonable suspicion, so the panel remanded to the district court to determine that issue. VACATED and REMANDED.

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