Yes. While the rights of the driver have been well established, the rights of passengers during traffic stops have been considerably less clear. In 2007, in the case of Brendlin v. California, the Supreme Court definitely said that during a traffic stop, passengers are considered “seized” for the purposes of the 4th Amendment, and therefore have standing and the ability to challenge the constitutionality of a stop and subsequent search.
However, this also means police officers have the right to command passengers out of the car, back into the car, and to perform a Terry search for weapons.
As a general matter then, this precedent establishes that the rights passengers have during a traffic stop are essentially have the same rights as the driver, which may have not been true in practice in the past. This includes:
However, it is worth noting that by virtue of some traffic stops, passengers may arguably have more, additional rights.
It is important to note that this right is certainly not absolute, and any request about whether a passenger is free to go should be made politely, as officer safety and their ability to control a suspected crime is paramount.
If you were a passenger in a vehicle that was subject to a search, you should seek the advice of an attorney immediately. A criminal defense attorney in your area can help secure your rights in the event that you or anyone you were with in a car faces criminal charges.
Last Modified: 04-14-2014 03:39 PM PDTLaw Library Disclaimer
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