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What Are the Passengers' Rights in a Texas Traffic Stop?

What are the Passengers’ Rights in a Texas Traffic Stop?

When you ride as a passenger in someone else’s car, you are putting your trust in that driver. In fact, your safety is in his or her hands. Further, if the driver gets pulled over for a traffic violation and ends up having an illegal substance such as drugs in the car, what happens to you? It is important to understand your rights as a passenger in such a situation.

Making a Traffic Stop

The Fourth Amendment gives us all the right to privacy, which includes freedom from unreasonable search and seizure by officers of the law. Before he or she can make a traffic stop, an officer must have a reasonable suspicion that the driver in question has committed a traffic violation or another crime. In other words, a police officer cannot pull you over simply because he or she feels like it. If, however, the officer has a reasonable suspicion that someone in the car you are riding in committed a crime, he or she is free to make the stop. For example, if your car matches the description of one used in a nearby robbery.

Passenger Rights

If you are riding in someone else’s car and that person is pulled over, you are – by default – part of the stop. You cannot, for example, simply get out of the car and wander off. Further, the Supreme Court has determined that the arresting officer has the right to order you out of the vehicle (and perhaps to sit on the curb) during the stop if he or she does so in the name of safety. Because you, as a passenger, may pose a threat to the officer, he or she is authorized to restrict your movements to ensure his or her own safety. This is in an attempt to balance your right to privacy (as a passenger) with the officer’s ongoing safety. Once the traffic stop is concluded, however, the officer no longer has any right to restrict, control, or direct your movements.

Dealing with a Traffic Stop

If you are the passenger in a car that is pulled over, there are several things that you can do to help the situation and yourself, including:

  • Be polite

  • Keep your hands visible

  • Stay in the vehicle unless the officer asks you to exit it

  • Do not consent to a search (it is your right to refuse)

If You Are Facing Criminal Charges, Consult with an Experienced Killeen Criminal Lawyer Today

Criminal charges are always serious charges, and if you are facing such charges, you need the professional legal counsel of an experienced criminal attorney. Criminal lawyer Brett H. Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard in Killeen, Texas, is here to help. Mr. Pritchard has the experience, dedication, and skill to resolve your case as favorably as possible. We care about your case, and we are here to help. Please do not hesitate to contact or call us at 254-501-4040 for more information today.
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