Can the police order you — or Caron Nazario — out of the car?
After watching so-called experts, special interest group advocates, and self-proclaimed victims discuss the Caron Nazario traffic stop case on cable news, Black and White and Thin Blue Lines, Inc. (hereafter “BWTBL”) wants to clarify the law of traffic stops. The basic point is this: a police officer may lawfully and constitutionally order the driver and passenger(s) to step out of a car stopped for a traffic violation, even a petty violation.
BWTBL did not make this rule up. Rather, 43 years ago, the United States Supreme Court interpreted the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution to permit a police officer to order the driver out of a car stopped for a traffic violation. Pennsylvania v. Mimms, 434 U.S. 106 (1977). The case was controversial then but remains the law today. Feel free to read the case. The principal reason for the decision is officer safety. In 1997, the Supreme Court revisited the general issue, focused on passengers in a car stopped by the police. In Maryland v. Wilson, 519 U.S. 408 (1997), the Supreme Court extended the rule in Pennsylvania v. Mimms to a vehicle’s passengers.
The “police experts,” “constitutional scholars,” and civil rights advocates on television are simply misleading viewers into the false sense that a driver or passenger may stay in the comfort / safety of your car after being ordered out of the car by the police if you “didn’t do anything.” That is simply not the law.