Can Police Order Passenger Out of Car
When can a police officer order a passenger out of car?
Common question that Defendant’s have after a police stop where they were stopped, ordered out of the car, and drugs were discovered….is that legal? Can police order passenger out of car in these circumstances?
The answer is that that police can order a passenger out of the car for several reasons: (1) legitimate safety concerns. If the officer orders a lawfully stopped passenger out of the vehicle for safety concerns then that is a lawful request and the passenger is required to obey. If they don’t they are essentially committing a new crimes of resisting without violence; (2) reasonable suspicion of criminal activity; (3) Evidence of a crime is in plain view upon approaching the vehicle.
When can’t police officer order a passenger out of car?
There appears to be a small gap in the legal jurisprudence for when can police order passenger out of car and when they can’t.The gap is as follows: if the officer is acting for one of the reasons above, then he can order the passenger out of the car and there is no 4th Amendment violation.
However, all other instances outside of those enumerated above appear to be unlawful reasons for ordering a passenger out of the car. For example, if the stop is concluded and the cop wants to talk to you about an unrelated matter. This would be an unlawful seizure. The Mimms case made it clear that while an officer may order an individual out of the car for legitimate safety concerns, the officer is not entitled to ask a driver out of the vehicle in every single instance in which he wants to speak with the occupants. See Pennsylvania v. Mimms, 434 U.S. 106 (1977).
Example of when can police order passenger out of car:
To answer the question “can police order passenger out of car” some context is needed. Let’s look at Gilchrist v. State, 757 So.2d 583 (Fla. 1st DCA 2000). In Gilchrist the Officer completed a traffic stop. After the traffic stop was completed and the ticket was handed to the Defendant, the Cop decided he wanted to talk to the driver of the vehicle (i.e. the Defendant). The Cop testified he was curious to see if there were drugs on him. So, the Cop asked if he could step out of the car. Drugs were subsequently found on the Defendant. The 1st District Court of Appeals stated that this was an improper search.
The Court emphasized the following: there is a safety exception. An officer may order every single person out of a car at will if he wants to so long as it is for safety reasons (also if there a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity). However, an officer may not simply order a driver out of the car for curiosity or for some other impermissible motive.