Police Search Car After Issuing Traffic Citation Warning, Prolonging Stop By Walking Two Canines Around the Vehicle; Passenger Charged with Drug Possession 

In State v. King, 2020-Ohio-1312, the driver was stopped for following other vehicles too closely.  During the stop, the officer noticed several knives and flashlights throughout the vehicle. Based on his training and experience, he associated those items with methamphetamine use. He also noted that the driver was laughing nervously and seemed to be trying to direct the conversation away from illegal activity.

The officer asked him to step out of the car and asked if the he had any weapons – the driver said no.  While the driver waited in the police cruiser, another officer arrived and walked his canine around the vehicle and it did not alert. 

The officer gave him a warning, and then asked the driver if he minded if another canine walked around The driver responded that he did not care. The second dog alerted to the presence of illegal narcotics.  The car was then searched and a vial of methamphetamine was located in Defendant’s (a passenger) purse, and two pipes that contained methamphetamine were found in the vehicle.

The driver (Defendant) was charged with aggravated possession of drugs in violation of R.C. 2925.11(A)(C)(1)(a).

Motion to Suppress: Drug Charge Thrown Out Because Officer Illegally Prolonged Stop, Did Not Obtain Proper Consent to Search

In her motion to suppress, Defendant argued that after the driver was given a warning, the group was  unlawfully detained and the driver’s consent to the canine sniff was not voluntary.

Under Ohio law, “once an officer executes an investigative stop, it generally ‘may last no longer than necessary to 4 accomplish the initial goal of the stop.’” State v. Alexander, 9th Dist. Medina No. 18CA0066-M, 2019-Ohio-3310, ¶ 9. 

“When a lawfully stopped vehicle contains passengers, the Fourth Amendment permits law enforcement officers to detain those passengers for the duration of the lawful detention of the driver.”  State v. Fry, 9th Dist. Summit No. 23211, 2007-Ohio-3240, ¶ 16. {¶11}

Here, once the officer gave the driver a warning, there was no reasonable, articulable suspicion to continue to detain the driver and the passengers. Once the first dog failed to alert,  any reasonable, articulable suspicion of drug activity would have been eliminated.

Further, the officer’s request for a second canine sniff prolonged the detention of the driver and passengers, after the lawful basis for the stop had ended. 

Finally, consent to the search was invalid because the driver was seated in a police car at the time and multiple police cars were on the scene. He did not think he could refuse when asked if the other dog could walk around the car. Thus, the driver’s consent was not freely and voluntarily given.

The evidence was then suppressed and the drug charges thrown out.

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