[W]e accept the state court’s conclusion that the duration of the stop in this case was entirely justified by the traffic offense and the ordinary inquiries incident to such a stop.

Illinois v. Caballes

543 U.S. 405 (2005)

U.S. Supreme Court

On Thursday November 12, 1998, at approximately 5:00 P.M., Illinois State Trooper Daniel Gillette stopped Mr. Roy Caballes on Interstate Route 80 in La Salle County, Illinois, for driving 71 miles per hour in a 65 mile per hour zone. Trooper Gillette radioed the police dispatcher to say that he was making the stop and to ask for a check on the license plates. Hearing the radio transmission, Trooper Craig Graham, responded with his drug-detection dog.

Once Trooper Gillette pulled over the vehicle, he informed the driver, identified as Mr. Roy Caballes that he had been speeding and asked to see his driver’s license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance. Mr. Caballes complied. Trooper Gillette noticed an atlas on the front seat, an open ashtray, the smell of air freshener, and a pair of suits hanging in the back without any other luggage. Trooper Gillette told Mr. Caballes to reposition his vehicle out of traffic on the shoulder of the road and then to come back to the police car. After both vehicles were moved away from traffic, Mr. Caballes entered the patrol car and was told by Trooper Gillette that he would be receiving a warning ticket. Trooper Gillette then radioed the police dispatcher to check on the validity of Mr. Caballes’ driver’s license and to check for outstanding warrants.

While waiting to hear back from the dispatcher, Trooper Gillette asked Mr. Caballes about his destination and what Trooper Gillette had observed was Mr. Caballes’ “dressed up” attire. Mr. Caballes replied that he was moving from Las Vegas, Nevada to Chicago, Illinois and that he was dressed up because he was a salesman, although currently unemployed. Spoiler alert, Mr. Caballes was a salesman and though unemployed would be considered an independent contractor of contraband.  Mr. Caballes was nervous and continued to be nervous even after being told that he would be issued only a warning.  Trooper Gillette found this unusual.

At 5:09:58, the dispatcher advised Trooper Gillette that Mr. Caballes had surrendered a valid Illinois driver’s license to Nevada and, at 5:11:58, the dispatcher confirmed the validity of Mr. Caballes’ Nevada driver’s license. Trooper Gillette immediately requested Mr. Caballes’ criminal history from the dispatcher. Trooper Gillette next requested Mr. Caballes’ permission to search his vehicle, but he refused. Trooper Gillette asked whether Mr. Caballes had ever been arrested, and he said that he had not. At 5:12:42, the dispatcher advised Trooper Gillette that Mr. Caballes had two prior arrests for marijuana distribution. Spoiler alert II – his arrest record was about to increase by one third.  Evidently Mr. Caballes was a salesman just not a very good one.  Trooper Gillette began to write the warning ticket. While writing the ticket, Trooper Gillette was interrupted by another officer calling him on the radio about an unrelated matter. Sometimes other work gets in the way of the work you are currently doing. However, it was significant enough that Trooper Gillette noted this interruption which is critical to the next part of the case analysis – time.

While Trooper Gillette was writing the ticket, Trooper Graham arrived and started walking his dog around respondent’s vehicle. At approximately 5:13 p.m., while Trooper Gillette was still writing the ticket, Trooper Graham informed Trooper Gillette that the dog alerted at Mr. Caballes’ trunk. Trooper Gillette then searched the trunk and found 2,500 grams of marijuana [5.5 pounds] in the trunk. At 5:15 p.m., Trooper Gillette changed the activity code for the stop to a narcotics investigation. Mr. Caballes was arrested and taken to the police station.

Mr. Caballes was charged with one count of cannabis trafficking, in violation of 720 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 550/5.1(a) (West 1998). He filed a motion to suppress the seized drug evidence and to quash the arrest. The trial court denied the motion and, after a stipulated bench trial, found Mr. Caballes guilty. The court sentenced him to twelve years of imprisonment and a $256,136 fine.

The Appellate Court of Illinois affirmed. The court rejected Mr. Caballes argument that the delay occasioned by Trooper Gillette’s request for a criminal-history check on the forty-four second period between the time the dispatcher confirmed the validity of his Nevada driver’s license and the time Trooper Gillette received Mr. Caballes criminal history unreasonably extended the period of the detention. The court held that the delay was “de minimis,” and that it “was not an unreasonable delay under the totality of the circumstances.” The court held [W]e accept the state court’s conclusion that the duration of the stop in this case was entirely justified by the traffic offense and the ordinary inquiries incident to such a stop.”.

The Supreme Court of Illinois reversed by a 4-3 vote. The case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court which held “A dog sniff conducted during a concededly lawful traffic stop that reveals no information other than the location of a substance that no individual has any right to possess does not violate the Fourth Amendment.”.

Lessons Learned:

  1. Illinois State Trooper Daniel Gillette utilized his training and experience to recognize that Mr. Roy Caballes was a drug courier based on the potent smell of air fresheners on his first approach. Trooper Craig Graham then walked his drug detection dog around the car and the canine alerted.  These troopers working in concert led to the conviction of Mr. Caballes for transporting five pounds of pot.  A significant issue in all traffic stop canine searches that begin only with a traffic violation is time.  Here the court went to great lengths to recognize that there was no significant delay in Trooper Graham’s arrival and canine sniff to include the forty-four seconds to complete a criminal history check.  Officers must be very cognizant and document all relevant times when a canine is called to the scene.  A traffic stop cannot be unreasonably delayed for a canine to arrive at the scene.  This is yet another reason for officers to properly document their actions in incident and arrest reports.  See also Joker is No Joke for Josh’s Wild Hair, Meth, Mushrooms and Infidelity.
  1. A trained canine alert does establish probable cause which was first established by the U.S. Supreme Court in United States v. Place, 462 U.S. 696 (1983). Canine handlers and the canines must complete intensive training and certification.  That certification must always be up-to-date as that will be a factor that will likely be challenged in court.

Does your agency train on Investigative Detentions and the Reasonable Suspicion Doctrine?

Don’t fail your training.

Don’t let your training fail you!

Be safe, smart and Objectively Reasonable!

Robert H. Meader Esq.