Traffic Stops: How long can you be detained?

Like all things legal - It depends. So let me give you an example from a recent appellate court decision out of Polk County - which is part of the Second DCA and binding on courts in Pasco and Pinellas Counties. stop-146896_1280 Joey Villanueva was stopped for running a stop sign. An officer approached the car, asked for a driver's license which Villanueva gave him. The officer came back to the car and asked if Villenueva had anything illegal in the car. No. Then the officer asked for consent to search the car. (Just an FYI - you DO NOT HAVE TO GIVE CONSENT JUST BECAUSE SOMEONE ASKS FOR IT) Villanueva, who was on probation, mistakenly said yes because he thought by nature of his probationary status that he had to give consent. (he does, but only to his probation officer, law enforcement needs either a warrant or the probation officer present or probable cause) Note that the officer had not issued a traffic citation yet, nor had he returned Villanueva's driver's license. After searching the car, the officer found drugs and paraphernalia, arrested Villanueva, then wrote up the traffic citation after Villanueva was already in custody in the back of the patrol car. The Court said this went beyond a routine traffic stop. It's unclear what the court would have said if the officer had issued the traffic citation and returned the driver's license, then, asked for consent to search the car. It is well established law, that a "traffic stop may last no longer than necessary" to write a ticket. UNLESS a person had freely and voluntarily given consent to search the car. Villanueva did not voluntarily give consent. Rather, he only gave consent because he thought he had to. Anyone who has been on probation, or heard someone be placed on probation by a judge in court, has heard this "do you understand you're giving up your right to search and seizure"? You are, but there are exceptions to that right. Villanueva, unknowingly and mistakenly, could have refused consent to search. Technically, had he refused consent, the officer would have needed either a warrant, or a probation officer to search. But I think we all know that would be pretty unlikely to happen. Because his CONSENT was involuntary, the stop was bad and the evidence thrown out. If you've been stopped for a traffic citation and later charged with a crime, call us.

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