Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Featured Case - Ward - Traffic Stop and Automobile Search

Ward v. Commonwealth, 10-CA-000732, Court of Appeals 


In Ward, an officer testified that he stopped a car after he witnessed it make a right turn without stopping at a stop sign.  The officer claimed that the two men inside appeared nervous and he recognized them as persons with “known drug violations.”  When the officer requested identification, the other occupant (Garner) gave his driver’s license.  Ward only gave the officer his Social Security number.  It took the officer five to ten minutes to run an identification check due to, according to the officer, Ward only giving his Social Security number.  After learning that no warrants were outstanding, the officer returned to the car.  Eight to ten minutes had transpired to this point and the officer had yet to write the traffic citation.  The officer asked Ward for permission to search the car.  Ward refused.  The officer had a canine unit in his car and conducted a canine search.  Methamphetamines were discovered in the car. 

On appeal, Ward argued that the duration of the traffic stop was unreasonably extended by the canine search.  The Court disagreed.  The Court determined that the eight to ten minutes between the stop of the vehicle and the canine search beginning and the total of twenty to twenty-five minutes from the time of the initial stop to the dog’s alerting on the vehicle was not unreasonable and, therefore, not a violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Contributed by Brandon Pigg