Can the police detain the vehicle and its passengers beyond the time needed to handle that traffic stop?

Expert Answers
pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The police can do something like this so long as they have a reasonable cause to do so.  They cannot simply detain the car and the passengers because they feel like it or because they have some vague suspicion that a crime has been committed.  Of course, there is no clear line between a reasonable suspicion and an unreasonable one.

The rule of thumb, then, is that the officer has the right to do all of the things that are needed for a routine traffic stop.  If, in the process of conducting that stop, the officer comes to have a reasonable suspicion that some crime has been committed (the typical example would be drug possession), the officer may prolong the stop and detain the car.

keithwnorris | Student

As long as the officer has initiated the stop and has probable cause, a resonable belief grounded on facts, they may hold you there as long as they need you to be there. However; they may not hold you simply to teach you a lesson for speeding, etc. This can be the case though if the officer can show the magistrate or judge that he/she had probable cause to hold you at the scene of the traffic stop then all claims of a false arrest, etc. are then thrown out the window.

bor | Student

Quoting from; Florida v. Royer, US SC;

...This much, however, is clear: an investigative detention must be temporary, and last no longer than is necessary to effectuate the purpose of the stop....

A traffic stop is an investigative detention, more analogous to a Terry Stop (Terry v. Ohio), (reasonable suspicion an offense has occurred) rather than a reasonable cause/probable cause stop.

When a motor vehicle is seized (stopped) ALL passengers can challenge the constitutionality it, see Brendlin v. California, US SC.

One case I have in my head is if a Terry Stop exceeds a reasonable time limit, it then turns into an actual arrest.

While there is no bright line time for an invetigative detention to finish, we can assume 10- 20 minutes is not out of the norm.

For some interesting reading, you can read this case from the Ohio Supreme Court, citing the Royer Court.