United States v. Esteban Jr.

Utah Highway Patrol (UHP) had claimed that they had a basis to stop a truck that was driving on I-80 based upon the purported traffic violation of failing to signal for more than two seconds before changing lanes. The troopers used a drug-sniffing canine as their purported basis of searching the truck. Large quantities of controlled substances were located during the search.

The stop was challenged on 3 grounds. First that there had been no basis for the traffic stop, second that even if there was grounds to stop the truck the Troopers has taken too much time in how they processed matters and finally that because of problems with training, a lack of reliability, and the absence of a trained final alert that the dog search had not been conducted in a scientifically sound manner.

The Federal District Court accepted the arguments on all three grounds and ordered that all evidence be suppressed. The case was then dismissed by the United States.

The Court noted that 35 out of 37 warning citations issued in time period before this detention had been given to vehicles with out-of-state license plates and then granted the requested suppression of all evidence. The Court concluded that the Trooper had driven in a manner that provoked the purported traffic violation.

The Court further found that the Trooper engaged in a number of unrelated inquiries that, taken together, prolonged this traffic stop without articulable, reasonable suspicion.

Finally the court considered the expert testimony of Dr. Lawrence Myers who had been retained as the defense expert. Based upon that and other testimony the court concluded that dog sniff was not sufficiently reliable so as to establish probable cause.

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