Fourthamendment.com reports on Judge Mueller's decision granting a motion to suppress evidence in United States v. Cornejo, 2:14-CR-0342-KJM, where an officer intentionally delayed a traffic stop to give a drug dog more time to get there and sniff for drugs:
It was apparent from the video that the officer slow walked the citation to give more time to the drug dog to get there and do its job. Selective muting of the audio at the time by the officer also adds to the court’s suspicion of the entire process. United States v. Cornejo, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 96229 (E.D.Cal. July 21, 2016):
… Considering the totality of the record, it appears Gunsauls consciously drew out filling out the entries in the citation in order to fish for information. He then further delayed the task by handing the citation off to Hughes when there were only two entries remaining, one of which was Gunsauls’ own name and identification number. The video establishes that the dog sniff added time to the stop, because it shows that after Hughes completed the citation, he retained the citation and Cornejo’s documents for another minute-and-a-half while he waited for Gunsauls to finish walking his dog around the car. Vid. 9:29:16-9:30:40. Rodriguez does not authorize questioning a person or performing a K-9 sniff while purporting to fill out a ticket or citation; it held a traffic stop “become[s] unlawful if it is prolonged beyond the time reasonably required to complete th[e] mission of issuing a ticket for the violation.” 135 S. Ct. at 1612 (citation and quotation marks omitted). Here, the mission of issuing a warning citation reasonably required substantially less than eight minutes under the circumstances. The fact that the deputies waited more than twenty-five minutes after the stop was initiated to check the validity of Cornejo’s license in no way justifies the unrelated tasks taken in between. See Ex. 15 at 1-2; Tr. 68, 127, 163-64, 167, 180, 197, 231-35.
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Gunsauls’ selective muting of the audio recording raises additional questions. Gunsauls testified that he turned off his microphone for “officer safety reasons,” Tr. 28, and to withhold law enforcement’s tactics from criminals, Tr. 164-66, 179-80. This explanation does not comport with muting the audio during the K-9 sniff or search of the sedan. Vid. 9:28:35-9:30:41. The selective muting here could have omitted Hughes’ questioning unrelated to the traffic mission, sounds undermining the reliability of the K-9 alert, or information being volunteered by the defendant that dispels suspicions.
Even accepting Gunsauls’ account in full, the evidence does not establish a reasonable suspicion of drug-related activity prior to Gunsauls’ unrelated questioning or the K-9 sniff.
Congrats to defense attorney Kelly Babineau!