Friday, March 03, 2017

Court Won't Apply Rodriguez to Stop That Happened Before It Was Decided

US v. Hill: Hill was a passenger in a car driven by his codefendant, Dodwell. when it was pulled over in North Carolina for following too closely. After a repeatedly prolonged traffic stop, officers recovered $30,000 in cash from the car. Days later, while reviewing video of the stop, an officer saw that Hill "had deposited a bag behind the patrol car's driver seat." It was recovered discovered to contain cocaine. After being charged with possession with intent to distribute more than 500 grams of cocaine, Hill and Dodwell moved to exclude the evidence found in the car. The district court denied the motion, adopting the recommended findings and conclusions of the magistrate just who conducted a hearing on the motion. The defendants entered into conditional guilty pleas.

On appeal, the Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of the motion to suppress, for two reasons. First, the court rejected the defendants' attempts to argue that the stop had been unduly prolonged under the Supreme Court's decision in Rodriguez v. US (and a similar Fourth Circuit case of the same vintage) because the stop happened before that case was decided. At the time of the stop, Fourth Circuit precedent was more lenient than Rodriguez and the fact that the officer could have wrapped up the stop more quickly was irrelevant. In essence, the court refused to apply Rodriguez retroactively. Second, the court rejected the challenge to some particular portions of the stop extension because the defendants failed to object to the magistrate judge's recommendations on those grounds.