Dennys Rodriguez's Supreme Court Win Fails To Help Dennys Rodriguez
from the sorry,-but-that-Fourth-Amendment-is-for-other-people dept
Dennys Rodriguez took his Fourth Amendment case all the way to the Supreme Court and won. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court concluded that a traffic stop cannot be extended to indulge in fishing expeditions. Instead, it ends when the objective is complete. If an officer pulled someone over for speeding, the stop ends when the citation or warning is delivered, no matter how many favors the officer asks after that point (“Mind if we look in the trunk?” “Would you mind waiting for our K9 unit?”).
The court declared that anything past this point is an “unreasonable search.” It sent the case back to the lower court for reconsideration in light of its ruling. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals took another look at its decision… and found a different way to screw Rodriguez out of his Fourth Amendment rights.
It found that the Rodriguez decision (named after the man in front of them for the second time) was all well and good, but existing precedent said the cops could get away with an “unreasonable search” because their actions were “reasonable.” Adios, Rodriguez. Hello, Davis.
When Rodriguez’s vehicle was stopped in March 2012, the law of this Circuit provided that a brief delay to employ a drug dog did not constitute an unconstitutional seizure, as long as the traffic stop was not unreasonably prolonged. We thus “repeatedly [had] upheld dog sniffs that were conducted minutes after the traffic stop concluded.”
The magistrate judge, the district court, and this court all determined that the seven- or eight-minute delay in this case constituted a de minimis intrusion on Rodriguez’s personal liberty and that Rodriguez’s seizure was lawful under our then binding precedent. Under Davis, therefore, the exclusionary rule does not apply because the circumstances of Rodriguez’s seizure fell squarely within our case law and the search was conducted in objectively reasonable reliance on our precedent.
No evidence suppression for Rodriguez. The Supreme Court may have found in his favor, but he’s going to jail anyway.
Not only has the “good faith” exception swallowed the rule, it has consumed a citizen’s Supreme Court victory. Scott Greenfield has penned an imaginary letter from the Supreme Court to one of its unluckiest “winners” that cuts through the legalese to deliver the devastating point of the lower court’s ruling on remand.
Now for a little bad news. While you’re going down in history, it’s not really going to do much for you. I know, you stuck it out, made the right, and reached the top of the mountain. Good on you for your tenacity. But as much as you convinced us that your constitutional rights were violated, well, you aren’t going to get the benefit of your hard work.
You see, because you won, and the way cops understood their authority until you won, we give them one free pass on violating your constitutional rights. I know, it sucks, but how would they know you were going to kick butt? I mean, what are the chances, right? So they acted in good faith based on existing law and, since the purpose of suppression is to give them a little smack for being bad boys, there is no deterrence to be gained by punishing them for what they did in good faith.
Rodriguez has won the judicial system lottery: his rights were violated and he’s still going to jail, because the police officers who kept him detained past the point of the stop’s “objective” were well within the expansive confines of the good faith exception.
The appeals court has “allowed” Rodriguez to “pay it forward.” The precedent set by the Supreme Court’s decision will (possibly) head off a few unconstitutional searches in the future. But for Dennys Rodriguez, it does nothing. He just had the misfortune of being illegally searched before the Supreme Court decided he’d been illegally searched.