During a traffic stop it is common procedure for a police officer to check information about the driver by running his or her driver’s license through a system to check it. The officer will check to see if the license itself is valid as well as to check for any outstanding warrants. This process usually comes under scrutiny when this process takes a longer period of time and the question arises as to how long is permissible for an officer to check this information. North Carolina courts have held that checking this type of information that may cause the traffic stop to be delayed beyond issuing a citation is allowed.
But how long is too long? There is not a clear cut answer regarding a set time limit, but generally however long is reasonably necessary for the officer to obtain the information. In State v. Castellon, 151 N.C. App. 675 (2002) an officer held someone on a traffic stop for 25 minutes to check this information. The court found that it was not unreasonable for the stop to take 25 minutes because the officer’s computer was working slowly as he tried to obtain the information. An officer may hold someone over on a traffic stop to check this type of information essentially for a period of time that is reasonable given the circumstance of that particular stop.