COA majority rules dog sniff did not prolong stop

The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed a woman’s motion to suppress evidence found at a traffic stop in a 2-1 decision after the court ruled the stop was not extended by an officer’s check of the car with his dog.

Megan J. Cassady was pulled over after not signaling properly while she was turning. During the traffic stop, DeKalb County Sheriff’s deputy Todd McCormick took his dog out and began checking the car. The dog alerted McCormick to the presence of narcotics. After searching the vehicle, McCormick found drugs under the driver’s seat. Cassady was charged with possession of methamphetamine as a Level 6 felony, possession of paraphernalia as a Class A misdemeanor and failure to signal turn as a Class C infraction.

Cassady filed a motion to suppress the evidence of the drugs at her hearing, claiming McCormick had no reasonable suspicion to extend the traffic stop because of the dog sniff. The trial court granted her motion. The state appealed.

The COA majority consisting of Judges John Baker and Elaine Brown, who wrote the decision in the case, said they disagreed with the trial court that a degree of suspicion is required to use a dog to sniff the car.

The majority also ruled that McCormick’s use of the dog did not prolong Cassady’s stop, noting that he completed the search with the dog in the time it took the dispatch center to check on Cassady’s license. The entire stop lasted just four minutes, so it did not take unreasonably long.

The case was remanded to the trial court for a hearing on Cassady’s charges.

Judge Melissa May dissented, noting she would have affirmed the trial court’s decision. She believed the stop was lengthened because of McCormick’s use of the dog to search and cited the fact that he called in Cassady’s license after he removed the dog from the car. While this wasn’t a long time, she said the amount of time the stop was prolonged has not been determined.

She also believed the officer did not have reasonable suspicion to search Cassady’s car.

The case is State of Indiana v. Megan J. Cassady, 17A03-1512-CR-2090.

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