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Name: United States v. Mendez
Case #: 05-10205
Court: US Court of Appeals
District 9 Cir
Opinion Date: 02/23/2007

When police ask unrelated questions during a traffic stop, these questions need not be supported by reasonable suspicion if they do not prolong the duration of the stop. Police officers pulled appellant over for a traffic stop. During the stop, police questioned appellant on unrelated matters, which resulted in appellant divulging he was a felon and that he was in possession of a gun. Appellant was charged with a weapons violation, and he unsuccessfully moved to suppress the evidence. The Ninth Circuit affirmed. While Ninth Circuit case law previously held that during a traffic stop police may only ask questions reasonably related to the stop (see U.S. v. Murillo (9th Cir. 2001) 255 F.3d 1169, U.S. v. Chavez-Valenzuela (9th Cir. 2001) 268 F.3d 719, and U.S. v. Perez (9th Cir. 1994) 37 F.3d 510), these holdings have been overruled by Muehler v. Mena (2005) 544 U.S. 93, 101, where the High Court held “mere police questioning does not constitute a seizure” unless it prolongs a detention, and thus, reasonable suspicion is not required to justify questioning that does not prolong a stop. Because the officers questioning here did not prolong the stop, their additional question need not have been supported by reasonable suspicion.