Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Matters unrelated to justification for traffic stop

US v. Guijon-Ortiz: Saul Guijon-Ortiz took issue with his conviction for illegal reentry after deportation; the Fourth Circuit affirmed. Guijon-Ortiz appealed the denial of his motion to suppress, in which he argued that during a traffic stop of a vehicle wherein he was a passenger, Guijon-Ortiz provided a fake ID, which the police officer discovered by calling ICE while the traffic stop was ongoing. Guijon-Ortiz argued that because of the length of time it took for the officer to contact ICE, he was subjected to an unconstitutional seizure. Guijon-Ortiz’s fingerprints were obtained when he was subsequently taken to an ICE office and questioned. The Fourth Circuit concluded that under a totality of the circumstances, the traffic stop was not unreasonably prolonged by the officer’s call to ICE.

Guijon-Ortiz’s appeal issue is this: once the officer learned that no one in the stopped vehicle had outstanding warrants, and since Guijon-Ortiz had given the officer an LPR card as identification, was the officer then permitted to call ICE to verify the validity of the LPR card? Under what circumstances, if ever, may an officer prolong a traffic stop to investigate matters unrelated to the justification for the stop and without reasonable suspicion, whether through questioning or other means?

The Fourth Circuit relies on its decision from earlier this year, United States v. Digiovanni, in which it held that a stop exceeded the permissible duration and scope when an officer "failed to diligently pursue" the purpose of the stop and went off on a tangential investigation into drugs in the vehicle, the latter investigation constituting the bulk of the encounter. The officer’s diligence in pursuit of the investigation of the justification for the stop, is key, though the duration and scope of the stop are still relevant to the Terry analysis.

The Fourth Circuit finds it decision is consistent the position of the Sixth, Eighth and Ninth Circuits, which is at odds with the Seventh Circuit, which holds that questions unrelated to the justification for a stop that hold potential for detecting crime, that create little or no inconvenience, do not turn reasonable detention into unreasonable detention.

However, the Fourth Circuit affirmed for the following reasons: 1) calling ICE is analogous with how an officer routinely runs a driver’s license and registration to check their validity; 2) the time it took to call ICE was very brief; 3) the purpose of the stop was "still alive" when the officer called ICE; and 4) although the call to ICE was unrelated to the purpose of the stop, the call was a single, brief detour from an otherwise diligent investigation into whether the driver was impaired. They did not decide whether the officer had reasonable suspicion to believe that criminal activity was afoot at the time he called ICE. And, to the extent that the reasonableness of a traffic stop would be judged solely on the duration of the stop, the Fourth Circuit rejects that reasoning.

1 comment:

yanni said...

Do you think that Guijon-Ortiz could have refused to give his identification to Cpl. Flowers? I have not read Florida v. Bostick or United States v. Meikle, but it seems that based on the Guijon-Ortiz opinion that it would have been better for Guijon-Ortiz to refuse to provide identification than for Guijon-Ortiz to provide the false identification.