There are no hard and fast rules about how much time police can take to perform a routine traffic stop. However, police may keep you no longer than necessary to accomplish the purpose of that stop. How long is necessary depends on the facts of each case.

In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court held that police could change the nature of a traffic stop as long as the stop was not unduly prolonged. (See Illinois v Caballes). Before 2005, police needed specific and articulable facts to change the nature of a stop. For example, police could stop you for blowing a traffic light, but only use a dog to sniff your car if they saw something that led them to believe you had drugs. After 2005, the dog could sniff your car regardless of the reason for the stop provided you were not unduly kept waiting.

A new U.S. Supreme Court case may be limiting this approach. In Rodriguez v United States, the Court stated that the general mission of a traffic stop was to insure traffic safety. Police ordinarily check the driver’s license, registration, proof of insurance and whether there are outstanding warrants. A dog sniff for drugs is not related to this mission although dogs may be used if they do not unduly prolong the stop. However, an officer who gets his work done quickly cannot use the time saved to fish around for other evidence of other wrong doing.

If you are charged with DUI or a related offense, contact an experienced attorney immediately. An attorney may review your case for your best possible defense. If the police acted improperly, the attorney may be able to petition the court to suppress the evidence from any search. Even if this is not possible and the evidence against you is overwhelming, an attorney who is respected in the courthouse may be able to negotiate a more favorable plea agreement than you could on your own.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

About mdkeenan

A criminal and school law attorney with over 17 years of experience, I have successfully represented clients all over the Chicago area. My practice includes DUI, felony, criminal, misdemeanor, homicide, internet crime, retail theft, traffic offenses, cyberstalking, drug crimes, weapons violations, domestic battery and juvenile crime. I also represent families involving school cases. My clients come from all over the Chicago area including Skokie, Wilmette, Niles, Northbrook, Glenview, Evanston, Winnetka, Highland park, Northfield, Park Ridge, Des Plaines and Mount Prospect. I am a member of the ACLU and the Illinois State Bar Association. I serve as a volunteer for First Defense Legal Aid. Se habla espanol.
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