Rhoton v. Commonwealth (Kentucky 2020) 2020 Ky. LEXIS 402

Traffic Stop; Prolonged Detention

LE was patrolling a high drug crime area when LE observed a car with an unbelted passenger. During the traffic stop, LE saw canisters that, based on training and experience, believed them to contain controlled substances. Driver denied having any drugs in the vehicle and refused a request to search. LE took information from driver and returned to his cruiser to start the citation. LE radioed for a PSD team to respond. LE was still working on the citation when PSD team arrived (passenger had an unrelated arrest warrant). The original LE officer then assisted the PSD handler in getting occupants out of the vehicle to conduct the sniff. PSD alerted to the driver’s door; once the door was opened, PSD alerted on driver’s seat. Contraband was found during the search of the vehicle.

The court held that even though this stop took about 10 minutes longer than usual, the fact that the passenger had a warrant provided independent probable cause to extend the time of the stop to address the warrant. The court also went on to say that even though LE could have handled the citation first and cut driver loose prior to dealing with the passenger, LE may decide to detain all persons involved until the stop is completed, as long as the original and the secondary purpose (in this case, the warrant) are diligently pursued. Because the court held that discovery of the warrant provided new probable cause to extend the stop, the court determined that they need not address the issue of whether the metal cannisters (and/or or other things observed before the warrant was discovered) created additional reasonable suspicion to extend the purpose of the traffic stop.