Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Drug Arrest Reversed Illegal Drug Dog Sniff

In Pfeiffer v. State of Texas, Not Reported in S.W.3d, 2011 WL 1734065 (Tex.App.-Texarkana) the defendant unsuccessfully challenged the validity of his continuing seizure in order to bring a canine unit to the scene following a lawful traffic stop. The facts were described as follows:

On March 22, 2007, on Highway 37 North, about a mile north of Clarksville, Red River County, Texas, State Trooper Matthew Kuhelengel stopped Lavern A. Pfeiffer's truck because the truck did not have mud flaps. Kuhelengel questioned Pfeiffer about his identity, place of residence, and travel destination. The officer twice told Pfeiffer that he was going to give him a warning about the mud flaps, and after checking Pfeiffer's license through dispatch, determined that he had no outstanding warrants. Upon further questioning by Kuhelengel, Pfeiffer admitted that he “got a DWI” thirty years prior. Pfeiffer then denied Kuhelengel's subsequent requests for permission to search the vehicle. Noting that Pfeiffer was “talking a lot,” “very nervous,” and that he had been “arrested a bunch of times,” Kuhelengel requested a canine unit and continued to detain Pfeiffer until it arrived. After the dog showed a positive response on the rear passenger door, a crude pipe was found in the rear floorboard and a bottle of methamphetamine was found in the front console. Pfeiffer was arrested and charged with possession of a controlled substance.
Pfeiffer argued that the warrantless search violated his Fourth Amendment rights because it lacked requisite cause and because he was illegally detained after the traffic stop was completed. The trial court denied Pfeiffer's motion. Pfeiffer pled guilty and received a ten-year probated sentence. On appeal, Pfeiffer argues that “his continued detention by the police was without sufficient cause, rendering the later search of his vehicle invalid.”

On appeal, the court agreed with the defendant and reversed. The court summarized the law on prolonged detention as follows:
"During a routine traffic stop, an officer may check for outstanding warrants and demand identification, a valid driver's license, and proof of insurance from the driver. Kothe v. State, 152 S.W.3d 54, 63 (Tex.Crim.App.2004); Caraway, 255 S.W .3d at 307. If, during that investigation, an officer develops reasonable suspicion that another violation has occurred, the scope of the initial investigation expands to include the new offense. Goudeau v. State, 209 S.W.3d 713, 719 (Tex.App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 2006, no pet.). When the reason for the stop has been satisfied, the stop may not be used as a “fishing expedition for unrelated criminal activity.” Davis, 947 S.W.2d at 243 (quoting Robinette, 519 U.S. at 41 (Ginsburg, J., concurring)). Once the officer concludes the investigation of the conduct that initiated the stop, continued detention of a person is permitted only if there is reasonable suspicion to believe that another offense has been or is being committed. Id. at 245."
The appeals court found that during the stop, Pfeiffer was unquestionably very nervous, and he tended to ramble when questioned. However, without more, the facts and circumstances present did not give rise to reasonable suspicion to allow the detention to be prolonged once the purpose for the original stop had been completed.

EDITORS NOTE: Had the drug dog arrived during the time that the initial purpose of the stop was still unfolding, the 'sniff' would have been lawful and the subsequent search upheld. See Illinois v. Caballes. The above case is all about the LENGTH, rather than the SCOPE, of detention.

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