How long can a traffic stop last?

In this sense, “the tolerable duration of police inquiries in the traffic-stop context is determined by the seizure’s ‘mission’—to address the traffic violation that warranted the stop and attend to related safety concerns.” Id., 135 S.Ct. at 1614. “Authority for the seizure thus ends when tasks tied to the traffic infraction are—or reasonably should have been—completed.” Id.
The United States Supreme Court has recognized that, in addition to issuing a traffic citation, “an officer’s mission includes ‘ordinary inquiries incident to [the traffic] stop’ ” like “checking the driver’s license, determining whether there are outstanding warrants against the driver, and inspecting the automobile’s registration and proof of insurance.” Id., 135 S.Ct. at 1615 (quoting Illinois v. Caballes, 543 U.S. 405, 408, 125 S.Ct. 834, 837, 160 L. Ed. 2d 842 (2005) ). Unlike a dog sniff, which is a measure aimed at detecting criminal wrongdoing, the ordinary inquiries incident to a traffic stop are aimed at ensuring that vehicles on the road are operated in a safe and responsible manner. Id. Investigations and actions unrelated to the traffic stop—like questioning and a dog sniff—which do not lengthen the roadside detention are permissible under the Fourth Amendment. Id., 135 S.Ct. at 1614. In this sense, an officer “may conduct certain unrelated checks during an otherwise lawful traffic stop. But ... he may not do so in a way that prolongs the stop, absent the reasonable suspicion ordinarily demanded to justify detaining an individual.” Id., 135 S.Ct. at 1615.

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