In Delaware, the Superior Court held that police had violated a man’s 4th amendment rights when they searched his vehicle after he gave them consent. At first blush, this seems to be an absurd ruling by the court, but their reasoning is important when you evaluate the result. The defendant was pulled over for speeding by an officer and was given a ticket for his traffic violation. He was then told by the officer that he was free to go. Another officer had arrived at the scene and asked the defendant if he had any questions, and the defendant asked the amount of the fine. At that point, the court determined that all aspects of the speeding violation were over. The original officer then asked the defendant if he had any weapons or drugs in the vehicle and he responded that he did not. The officer then requested to search his vehicle and the defendant consented.
The court argues that once the reason for the traffic stop has been completed, the officer should have additional reasonable suspicion to continue questioning or detaining someone. In this case, the court found that the officer had no reasonable suspicion to further question the defendant, thus violating his 4th amendment right against unreasonable searches or seizures. Courts nationwide are taking a stronger look at whether law enforcement can use a legal seizure to allow them to continue fishing for other crimes, even after they have completed the investigation that caused the original traffic sto