Police

Cops Can't Continue Traffic Stops Without Cause, Says Utah Court

No endless fishing expeditions

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After a police officer hands a driver back his license and registration, the traffic stop cannot continue, a federal court ruled. On Friday, the US District Court for the District of Utah dismissed all charges against Ramon A. Lopez, a man who had been pulled over for having a towel in his window around at around 10:50am on May 9, 2012.

Highway Patrol Trooper John Sheets was told to come up with a pretext for pulling over the car that was being driven by Lopez after receiving a tip from the Drug Enforcement Agency. Trooper Sheets performed the stop, but Lopez did not speak English. His passenger, Janeth Jopez, translated. Trooper Sheets asked for license and registration, which checked out as valid.

Janeth Lopez explained they were traveling to Salt Lake City interested in buying a car. Trooper Sheets did not believe the story. While waiting, a drug dog was brought in to sniff the outside of the car. The dog did not alert. Trooper Sheets returned the license and registration, but he also asked for consent to search the car for drugs. Ramon Lopez looked confused by the question and said "si," though Janeth Lopez did not know what he meant. The trooper took that as consent, though both sides dispute what was said during the conversation, which was not recorded.