This case presents two search and seizure issues resulting from a traffic stop. First, whether a highway patrolman had reasonable suspicion to stop a motorist for a rapidly blinking turn signal. Second, whether the seizure became unreasonable when the patrolman prolonged the stop by questioning the motorist about matters unrelated to the stop’s mission. The District Court concluded that the initial stop was valid and that the questioning about unrelated matters did not transform the stop into an unreasonable seizure. The Eleventh Circuit agreed that there was reasonable suspicion to stop the motorist, but found that the patrolman unlawfully prolonged the stop.
During the traffic stop, the officer asked: (1) where he was going, (2) who he was going to see, (3) where he worked, (4) if he had time off work, (5) when his last traffic ticket was, (6) if he had ever been arrested, (7) how old his car was, (8) how good of a deal he got on his car, (9) whether he had any counterfeit merchandise in the car, and, (10) if he had a dead body in the car.
The court held that the proper standard is: a stop is unlawfully prolonged when an officer, without reasonable suspicion, diverts from the stop’s purpose and adds time to the stop in order to investigate other crimes. Even 25 seconds of time beyond that need to conduct stop is violation of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Rodriguez. But since it was pre-Rodriguez incident, the good faith exception kept evidence from being excluded.
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