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Prolonged Traffic Stop Resulting in Police Discovery of Drugs Violates 4th Amendment

People v. Ayon Docket: H047360 (Sixth Appellate District), Opinion Date: July 6, 2022. After the police saw Ayon commit two minor traffic violations, they stopped him in his car and detained him until a narcotics dog arrived, 12 minutes and 45 seconds into the stop. After the dog indicated the presence of drugs, the police searched the car, wherein they found cocaine, methamphetamine, currency, and a scale. The trial court denied Ayon’s motion to suppress, rejecting his argument that the police unlawfully prolonged the duration of the stop in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. The court of appeal reversed. “A careful reading of the record shows the stop was actually part of a preexisting drug investigation, and the police used the traffic infractions as a pretext for the stop.” While that fact does not by itself render the search unconstitutional, based on the evidence in the record viewed objectively—including police body camera videos of the stop—the police unlawfully prolonged the traffic stop. One officer’s body camera continued to record for a total of 61 minutes, at which time the stop and search were still underway.

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