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A police stop exceeding the time needed to handle the matter for which the stop was made violates the Constitution's shield against unreasonable seizures. A prolonged stop is unconstitutional if it both exceeds the time needed for the initial purpose of the stop and there is no independent reasonable suspicion to allow the police to extend the length of the stop. In other words, authority for the seizure ends when tasks tied to the traffic infraction are, or reasonably should have been, completed. If during a traffic stop, new grounds for suspicion of criminal activity continue to unfold, the period of the detention can be constitutionally extended.
Defendant was pulled over for speeding. At the beginning of the stop, defendant provided the officers with a rental car agreement, that showed the car he was driving had been rented to a third party, who was not present. Additionally, defendant gave the officers a false name, social security number, and date of birth, none of which returned a positive identification of defendant when one of the officers tried to run the information through available databases. The officers then suspected that defendant was involved in drug trafficking. The stop lasted for two hours, and in the duration of which, the officers found both gun and drugs in the trunk of the vehicle. Defendant’s motion to suppress the evidence was denied and he was subsequently convicted. In sentencing the defendant, the district court applied the four-level sentencing enhancement under U.S.S.G § 2K2.1(b)(6). Defendant appealed, arguing that the traffic stop was prolonged without reasonable suspicion of criminal activity in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Defendant further argued that the district court erred in applying the four-level sentencing enhancement under U.S.S.G § 2K2.1(b)(6).
The court held that the district court properly denied defendant's motion to suppress the seizure of heroin because given the totality of the circumstances, as events unfolded the police officers had reasonable suspicion to believe that defendant was involved in drug trafficking, and that independent basis for reasonable suspicion amply supported the officers’ decision to prolong the stop and call for a drug dog. However, the court held that the district court erred in applying the four-level sentencing enhancement under U.S. Sentencing Guidelines Manual § 2K2.1(b)(6) because the fact that the gun and the drugs were both in the trunk of the vehicle did not support the district court's finding that the gun emboldened defendant's possession of the drugs, and the district court erred by focusing on proximity rather than accessibility.