Today the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that passengers as well as drivers can challenge traffic stops as unreasonable seizures prohibited by the Fourth Amendment. The decision involved Bruce Brendlin, who was riding in a car that was stopped by police in Yuba City, California, in 2001 for no particular reason. After the car was stopped, police recognized Brendlin, who was wanted for a parole violation, and searched him, finding "methamphetamine paraphernalia" that led to possession and manufacturing charges. Brendlin challenged the search, arguing that the traffic stop was unconstitutional, based on neither probable cause nor reasonable suspicion. The state fended off Brendlin's challenge by arguing that only the driver of the car had been "seized"; as a passenger, Brendlin was free to go. The California Supreme Court bought this argument, but the U.S. Supreme Court disagreed, concluding that "no reasonable person in his position when the car was stopped would have believed himself free to 'terminate the encounter' between the police and himself."
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