Civil Liberties

Excuse Me, Officer, Do You Mind If I Walk the Rest of the Way?

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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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  1. 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.

    “Citizen, you are free to go, at which point you will be immediately arrested for fleeing an officer.”

  2. WTF is “methampetamine paraphenalia”? As an ex dope fiend I am inexplicably dumbfounded.

  3. methampetamine paraphenalia = a can of starter fluid? I’m not an ex dope fiend, so I may have gotten that wrong, but I once worked with a guy who used to make it cheaply out of something like that.

  4. “I interpreted his behavior as an attempt to conceal evidence. It raised a suspicion in my mind.”

  5. Why, to fuel up my tractor, of course. How else am I going to plow my alfalfa fields?

    Hm? Oh, plowing the alfalfa field is terrible for my allegeries.

  6. “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.”

    …as demonstrated on several TV channels a night when the car stops and passengers get out, hop the guardrail, and run.

  7. Mike – all of those scenes tend to end with the passenger on the ground getting cuffed.

  8. Paraphernalia is a pipe.

  9. Does a meth pipe look any different than a crack pice, an MJ pipe etc? I just popped pills and ran it once.

    PS Don’t ever run meth. I really, really mean that.

  10. Don’t ever run meth.

    Well now I’m curious. ‘Splain, plz.

  11. “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.”

    So this means that only unreasonable people are aware of their rights?

  12. I’ve always found it interesting that the local LEO’s will arrest passengers for public drunkeness when the driver of a vehicle is arrested and the passengers are too intoxicated to drive themselves home.

  13. Finally, a unanimous Supreme Court decision that gets it right on civil liberties. Who’da thunk?

  14. Excuse Me, Officer, Do You Mind If I Walk the Rest of the Way?

    tried that once and you know how it turned out

  15. Well now I’m curious. ‘Splain, plz.
    Episiarch, running a drug is 70s slang for injecting it directly into the bloodstream. Doing this was incredibly stupid and the worst self inflicted drug experiene I ever went through. Hope that clears it up for you.

  16. J sub D,

    I understand the running part–I was curious as to why it was so bad, as in what happened.

  17. “Excuse Me, Officer, Do You Mind If I Walk the Rest of the Way?

    tried that once and you know how it turned out”

    It would probably help if, at the next traffic stop for suspected DWI, you didn’t insist the police officer address you by your nickname The Winecommonsewer.

  18. Episiarch, my heart started racing immediately. I literally thought I was going into cardiac arrest. Taking methadrine orally gives you enrergy, banishes fatigue and allows you to concentrate more intently. Running it (maybe too large a dose?) made me feel my whole body was out of control. I’ll go further by admonishing all to keep away from all amphetamines unless prescibed by a physician. No, atheletic trainers don’t count.

  19. You’d think it incredibly obvious that when stopped by the police, you are not, in fact, free to go. Yet this somehow escaped the CA court.

    Three cheers for the SCOTUS for a change.

  20. “Don’t ever run meth”
    Tell that to JFK!

    flipside don’t ever NOT “run” morphine
    takes a much higher dose orally (4 times if I recall and empirically that is an understatement)
    snorted morphine sulfate has no effect whatsoever

  21. Great, so you libertarians think paraphernalia shouldn’t be illegal? Just wait till someone does it to one of your children.

  22. It would probably help if, at the next traffic stop for suspected DWI, you didn’t insist the police officer address you by your nickname The Winecommonsewer.

    LOL.

    Last time I got caught in a DUI checkpoint the nice cop asked if I’d been drinking and I said No, Officer, not at all.

  23. Whenever you guys refer to the Supers as SCOTUS my mind morphs that into SCROTUS and I LOL. This happens EVERY time.

  24. As a passenger, I’ve spent time in the back of the cop-car awaiting the driver-consented search to happen. We had nothing to hide except the half-bottle of wine in the trunk, which the police threatened to arrest us all for “open container”, duh.

    I will never consent to a search, and I will now refuse them if I am a passenger.

  25. It’s good to see the Supremes can still sing “Stop! In the Name of Justice” once in a while.

  26. The Utah preacher who had umpteen wives and was arrested while riding in a suburban with no plates driven by someone else, recognized and arrested, should be able to get loose over this, right? Somehow, I don’t think so.

  27. You might want to check the application of this case to the Franconia shooting tragedy.

    Make sure to click the links because they all tell one hell of a story.

    http://christopher-king.blogspot.com/2007/06/was-liko-kenney-speeding-or-not.html

    And here is how the State reacted to our cameras:

    http://christopher-king.blogspot.com/2007/06/kingcast-open-letter-to-nh-ags-ayotte.html

    Peace.

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