United States v. Winters, No. 13-6349 (6th Cir. 2015)Annotate this Case
An officer stopped a rental car, in which Winters was the passenger, for speeding. The occupants’ nervous behavior, inconsistent, implausible travel plans, and suspicious rental arrangement led the officer to believe that they might be trafficking contraband. After he issued a warning ticket, the officer extended the stop for four minutes to retrieve his drug-detection dog from his cruiser, deploying his dog 24 minutes after the stop was initiated. The dog alerted to narcotics. Searching the vehicle, the officer discovered heroin in Winters’s bag on the seat. Winters was charged with possession with intent to distribute heroin. He entered a conditional guilty plea, reserving his right to appeal denial of his suppression motion. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, rejecting arguments that the officer unreasonably extended the stop and that the 2013 Supreme Court decision, Florida v. Jardines established that a dog sniff must be justified by probable cause, not mere reasonable suspicion. Under the totality of the circumstances, the officer had reasonable, articulable suspicion of criminal activity that justified extending the stop. The Jardines decision is premised on special protections accorded to the home and does not alter the analysis for traffic stops. The officer was entitled to reasonably rely on binding precedent, that the use of a drug-detection dog during a lawful traffic stop does not require probable cause.