It is well established law that the police cannot legally stop your vehicle without reasonable suspicion. Where matters become a little less clear is the law that holds that once the purpose of the initial stop of a defendant’s vehicle has been accomplished, and no other reasonable suspicion exists to support further investigation, any ongoing detention of the defendant and his vehicle is illegal. A recently decided Colorado Supreme Court, People v. Mason, case directly addresses this issue.
In that case, the defendant was stopped due to a late turn signal and incomplete stop at a stop sign. The defendant was issued a ticket for driving under suspension. While the officer was completing his paperwork, he received notice that a sheriff’s investigator had reason to believe the defendant had recently purchased drugs. The stopping officer then detained the defendant even after the required paperwork for the summons was completed, and informed him that he was not free to leave. Ten minutes later, the sheriff’s investigator arrived with a drug sniffing dog who alerted the officers to the presence of drugs on the driver’s side of the vehicle. As it turns out, the sheriff’s investigator did not have any evidence connecting the defendant to any recent criminal activity. He had been provided information by an informant two weeks prior to the stop that may have implicated the defendant ion some illegal drug activity. The Court held that this did not offer support for his stop and detention two weeks later.