United States v. Rodriguez-Escalera, No. 17-2334 (7th Cir. 2018)Annotate this Case
Illinois State Trooper Patterson observed a car abruptly switch lanes in front of a truck without using a signal on I-70. A dashboard camera recorded the traffic stop. Patterson reviewed documents from Moran, the driver, and Rodriguez, her fiance, who is from Mexico, and questioned them about their travel plans. They gave inconsistent answers. Eight minutes into the stop, Patterson discovered that Moran’s California driver’s license was suspended. After Patterson had everything he needed to issue citations and release them, Patterson called for a narcotics-detection dog, which was occupied with another traffic stop. Patterson took 22 minutes to issue three routine citations. The K-9 unit arrived 33 minutes after the stop. Despite an initial negative dog sniff, Patterson continued to question Moran, stating that he wanted to “make sure there is nothing illegal, is that all right? Moran nodded yes. Patterson searched Moran’s vehicle. Her trunk contained 7.5 pounds of methamphetamine hidden in luggage; Moran's purse contained $28,000 in cash. The Seventh Circuit affirmed an order suppressing the evidence. A seizure that is “lawful at its inception” can violate the Fourth Amendment if “prolonged beyond the time reasonably required to complete” the initial purpose. When Patterson requested the dog, he only knew that the couple was coming from Los Angeles; that Moran had air fresheners in her car; that the couple did not have concrete travel arrangements; and that Rodriguez did not look up when Patterson approached the vehicle.