Freedom Activist Network's Guide To
US Traffic Stop Case Law

SEARCH & SEIZURE ISSUES
Checkpoints · Consent · Detainment · Incident to Arrest · Probable Cause · Protective Searches · Requests and Orders to Stay In or Exit Vehicle · Vehicle Searches

OTHER TRAFFIC STOP ISSUES
Driver Licensing · Self-Incrimination · Vehicle Licensing · US Case Law · US State Case Law

 

 

 

Checkpoints

?
(Nov 28 2000)
(Probable Cause Required for Vehicle Searches at Highway Checkpoint with Primary Purpose of Detecting Illegal Activity)
United States v Martinez-Fuerte
428 US 543 (1976)
"The Border Patrol's routine stopping of a vehicle at a permanent checkpoint located on a major highway away from the Mexican border for brief questioning of the vehicle's occupants is consistent with the Fourth Amendment, and the stops and questioning may be made at reasonably located checkpoints in the absence of any individualized suspicion that the particular vehicle contains illegal aliens."
"While the need to make routine checkpoint stops is great, the consequent intrusion on Fourth Amendment interests is quite limited, the interference with legitimate traffic being minimal and checkpoint operations involving less discretionary enforcement activity than roving-patrol stops."
"Under the circumstances of these checkpoint stops, which do not involve searches, the Government or public interest in making such stops outweighs the constitutionally protected interest of the private citizen."
"We hold today that such stops are consistent with the Fourth Amendment. We also hold that the operation of a fixed checkpoint need not be authorized in advance by a judicial warrant."

 

Consent

United States v Watson
117 F3d 1421 (1997 WL 377035) (CTA6 1997)
(Genuine Threats to obtain Search Warrant may not render Search Consent Involuntary)
United States v Riascos-Suarez
73 F3rd 616, 625 (6th Cir 1996)
(Coerced Consent in Warrantless Search)
United States v White
979 F2d 539, 542 (CTA6 1992)
(Baseless Threats to obtain Search Warrant may render Search Consent Involuntary)
United States v Colonia
870 F2d 1319 (CTA7 1989)
(Genuine Threats to obtain Search Warrant may not render Search Consent Involuntary)
United States v Talkington
843 F2d 1031 (CTA7 1988)
(Genuine Threats to obtain Search Warrant may not render Search Consent Involuntary)
Brown v Illinois
422 US 590; 95 S Ct 2254 (1975)
(Exploitation of an Illegal Act may render Search Consent Involuntary)
Schneckloth v Bustamonte
412 US 218, 248-249; 93 S Ct 2041, 2059 (1973)
(Coercion and Duress may render Search Consent Involuntary)
Stoner v California
376 US 483
Eaton v Price
364 US 263
Frank v Maryland
359 US 360
United States v Jeffers
342 US 48
McDonald v United States
335 US 451
Davis v United States
328 US 582 (1946)
(Warrantless Search with Disputed Coerced Consent for Government Owned Property)
Agnello v United States
269 US 20

 

Detainment without Arrest

United States v Williams
754 F2d 672 (CTA6 1985)
(Time Limits on Detainment without Arrest or Seizure of Person)

 

Incident to Arrest

Also see 4th Amendment

Knowles v Iowa
97-7597 (1998)
(Search Incident to Traffic Citation Violates Fourth Amendment regardless of Iowa Law)
United States v Robinson
414 US 218 (1973)
(Search Incident to Arrest Permissible Exception to Warrant Requirement)
Chimel v California
395 US 752; 89 S Ct 2034; 23 L Ed 2d 685 (1969)
(Warrantless Search of House Incident to Arrest)
Harris v United States
331 US 145; 67 S Ct 1098; 91 L Ed 1399 (1947)
(Search of Arrestee's Entire House)

 

Probable Cause

Brendlin v California
06-8120 (June 18 2007)
(Passengers have Standing in Challenging Constitutionality of Traffic Stops)
"When police make a traffic stop, a passenger in the car, like the driver, is seized for Fourth Amendment purposes and so may challenge the stop's constitutionality."
Findlaw
?
(Nov 28 2000)
(Probable Cause Required for Vehicle Searches at Highway Checkpoint with Primary Purpose of Detecting Illegal Activity)
Ybarra v Illinois
444 US 85; 62 L Ed 2d 238; 100 S Ct 338 (1979)
"The police did possess a warrant based on probable cause to search the tavern where appellant happened to be when the warrant was executed, but a person's mere propinquity to others independently suspected of criminal activity does not, without more, give rise to probable cause to search that person."

 

Protective Searches

?
(Mar 28 2000)
(Anonymous Tip not Reasonable for Protective Search)
Minnesota v Dickerson
508 US 366; 91 S Ct 2019 (1993)
(Non-Weapon Contraband Seized During Weapons Patdown Not Admissible Evidence)
Michigan v Long
463 US 1032 (1983)
"Accordingly, when a state court decision fairly appears to rest primarily on federal law, or to be interwoven [463 U.S. 1032, 1033] with federal law, and when the adequacy and independence of any possible state law ground is not clear from the face of the opinion, this Court will accept as the most reasonable explanation that the state court decided the case the way it did because it believed that federal law required it to do so."
"Protection of police and others can justify protective searches when police have a reasonable belief that the suspect poses a danger."
"Thus, the search of the passenger compartment of an automobile, limited to those areas in which a weapon may be placed or hidden, is permissible if the police officer possesses a reasonable belief based on specific and articulable facts which, taken together with the rational inferences from those facts, reasonably warrant the officer to believe that the suspect is dangerous and the suspect may gain immediate control of weapons."
"The circumstances of this case justified the officers in their reasonable belief that respondent posed a danger if he were permitted to reenter his vehicle."
"Apart from its two citations to the State Constitution, the court below relied exclusively on its understanding of Terry and other federal cases. Not a single state case was cited to support the state court's holding that the search of the passenger compartment was unconstitutional."
"Because the officer feared that the suspects were armed, he patted down the outside of the suspects' clothing and discovered two revolvers."
"When the officer has a reasonable belief 'that the individual whose suspicious behavior he is investigating at close range is armed and presently dangerous to the officer or to others, it would appear to be clearly unreasonable to deny the officer the power to take necessary measures to determine whether the person is in fact carrying a weapon and to neutralize the threat of physical harm.' "
Ybarra v Illinois
444 US 85; 62 L Ed 2d 238; 100 S Ct 338 (1979)
"A reasonable belief that a person is armed and presently dangerous must form the predicate to a patdown of the person for weapons."
"The initial frisk of Ybarra was simply not supported by a reasonable belief that he was armed and presently [444 U.S. 85, 93] dangerous, a belief which this Court has invariably held must form the predicate to a patdown of a person for weapons."
"Upon seeing Ybarra, they neither recognized him as a person with a criminal history nor had any particular reason to believe that he might be inclined to assault them. Moreover, as Police Agent Johnson later testified, Ybarra, whose hands were empty, gave no indication of possessing a weapon, made no gestures or other actions indicative of an intent to commit an assault, and acted generally in a manner that was not threatening."
"In short, the State is unable to articulate any specific fact that would have justified a police officer at the scene in even suspecting that Ybarra was armed and dangerous."
"The 'narrow scope' of the Terry exception does not permit a frisk for weapons on less than reasonable belief or suspicion directed at the person to be frisked, even though that person happens to be on premises where an authorized narcotics search is taking place."
"Since we conclude that the initial patdown of Ybarra was not justified under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, we need not decide whether or not the presence on Ybarra's person of "a cigarette pack with objects in it" yielded probable cause to believe that Ybarra was carrying any illegal substance."
Terry v Ohio
392 US 1 (1968)
"Though the trial court rejected the prosecution theory that the guns had been seized during a search incident to a lawful arrest, the court denied the motion to suppress and admitted the weapons into evidence on the ground that the officer had cause to believe that petitioner and Chilton were acting suspiciously, that their interrogation was warranted, and that the officer for his own protection had the right to pat down their outer clothing having reasonable cause to believe that they might be armed."
"Whenever a police officer accosts an individual and restrains his freedom to walk away, he has "seized" that person within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment."
"Where a reasonably prudent officer is warranted in the circumstances of a given case in believing that his safety or that of others is endangered, he may make a reasonable search for weapons of the person believed by him to be armed and dangerous [392 U.S. 1, 3] regardless of whether he has probable cause to arrest that individual for crime or the absolute certainty that the individual is armed. ... (d) An officer justified in believing that an individual whose suspicious behavior he is investigating at close range is armed may, to neutralize the threat of physical harm, take necessary measures to determine whether that person is carrying a weapon. ... (f) An officer may make an intrusion short of arrest where he has reasonable apprehension of danger before being possessed of information justifying arrest."
"The officer's protective seizure of petitioner and his companions and the limited search which he made were reasonable, both at their inception and as conducted. ... (a) The actions of petitioner and his companions were consistent with the officer's hypothesis that they were contemplating a daylight robbery and were armed. ... (b) The officer's search was confined to what was minimally necessary to determine whether the men were armed, and the intrusion, which was made for the sole purpose of protecting himself and others nearby, was confined to ascertaining the presence of weapons."

 

Requests and Orders to Stay In or Exit Vehicle

Maryland v Wilson
95-1268
Chief Justice Rehnquist writes "Mimms, like Wilson, urged the suppression of the evidence on the ground that the officer's ordering him out of the car was an unreasonable seizure, and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, like the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland, agreed."
"On the other side of the balance, we considered the intrusion into the driver's liberty occasioned by the officer's ordering him out of the car. Noting that the driver's car was already validly stopped for a traffic infraction, we deemed the additional intrusion of asking him to step outside his car "de minimis." ... Accordingly, we concluded that 'once a motor vehicle has been lawfully detained for a traffic violation, the police officers may order the driver to get out of the vehicle without violating the Fourth Amendment's proscription of unreasonable seizures.' "
"On the public interest side of the balance, the same weighty interest in officer safety is present regardless of whether the occupant of the stopped car is a driver or passenger. Regrettably, traffic stops may be dangerous encounters. ... In the case of passengers, the danger of the officer's standing in the path of oncoming traffic would not be present except in the case of a passenger in the left rear seat, but the fact that there is more than one occupant of the vehicle increases the possible sources of harm to the officer."
"Outside the car, the passengers will be denied access to any possible weapon that might be concealed in the interior of the passenger compartment. It would seem that the possibility of a violent encounter stems not from the ordinary reaction of a motorist stopped for a speeding violation, but from the fact that evidence of a more serious crime might be uncovered during the stop. And the motivation of a passenger to employ violence to prevent apprehension of such a crime is every bit as great as that of the driver."
"In summary, danger to an officer from a traffic stop is likely to be greater when there are passengers in addition to the driver in the stopped car. While there is not the same basis for ordering the passengers out of the car as there is for ordering the driver out, the additional intrusion on the passenger is minimal. We therefore hold that an officer making a traffic stop may order passengers to get out of the car pending completion of the stop."
Justice Stevens, with whom Justice Kennedy joins, "My concern is not with the ultimate disposition of this particular case, but rather with the literally millions of other cases that will be affected by the rule the Court announces. Though the question is not before us, I am satisfied that--under the rationale of Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968)--if a police officer conducting a traffic stop has an articulable suspicion of possible danger, the officer may order passengers to exit the vehicle as a defensive tactic without running afoul of the Fourth Amendment. Accordingly, I assume that the facts recited in the majority's opinion provided a valid justification for this officer's order commanding the passengers to get out of this vehicle. But the Court's ruling goes much farther. It applies equally to traffic stops in which there is not even a scintilla of evidence of any potential risk to the police officer. In those cases, I firmly believe that the Fourth Amendment prohibits routine and arbitrary seizures of obviously innocent citizens."
"Those statistics do not tell us how many of the incidents involved passengers. Assuming that many of the assaults were committed by passengers, we do not know how many occurred after the passenger got out of the vehicle, how many took place while the passenger remained in the vehicle, or indeed, whether any of them could have been prevented by an order commanding the passengers to exit. 2 There is no indication that thenumber of assaults was smaller in jurisdictions where officers may order passengers to exit the vehicle without any suspicion than in jurisdictions where they were then prohibited from doing so. Indeed, there is no indication that any of the assaults occurred when there was a complete absence of any articulable basis for concern about the officer's safety--the only condition under which I would hold that the Fourth Amendment prohibits an order commanding passengers to exit a vehicle."
"Indeed, the number of stops in which an officer is actually at risk is dwarfed by the far greater number of routine stops. If Maryland's share of the national total is about average, the State probably experiences about 100 officer assaults each year during traffic stops and pursuits. Making the unlikely assumption that passengers are responsible for one fourth of the total assaults, it appears that the Court's new rule would provide a potential benefit to Maryland officers in only roughly 25 stops a year. 4 These stops represent a minuscule portion of the total. In Maryland alone, there are something on the order of one million traffic stops each year. 5 Assuming that there are passengers in abouthalf of the cars stopped, the majority's rule is of some possible advantage to police in only about one out of every twenty thousand traffic stops in which there is a passenger in the car. And, any benefit is extremely marginal. In the overwhelming majority of cases posing a real threat, the officer would almost certainly have some ground to suspect danger that would justify ordering passengers out of the car."
Michigan v Summers
452 US 692 (1981)
Pennsylvania v Mimms
434 US 106 (1977)
"The Pennsylvania court did not doubt that the officers acted reasonably in stopping the car. It was also willing to assume, arguendo, that the limited search for weapons was proper once the officer observed the bulge under respondent's coat. But the court nonetheless thought the search constitutionally infirm [434 U.S. 106, 108] because the officer's order to respondent to get out of the car was an impermissible "seizure." This was so because the officer could not point to "objective observable facts to support a suspicion that criminal activity was afoot or that the occupants of the vehicle posed a threat to police safety." "
"Deferring for a moment the legality of the "frisk" once the bulge had been observed, we need presently deal only with the narrow question of whether the order to get out of the car, issued after the driver was lawfully detained, was reasonable and thus permissible under the Fourth Amendment. This inquiry must therefore focus not on the intrusion resulting from the request to stop the vehicle or from the later "pat down," but on the incremental intrusion resulting from the request to get out of the car once the vehicle was lawfully stopped."
"The hazard of accidental injury from passing traffic to an officer standing on the driver's side of the vehicle may also be appreciable in some situations. Rather than conversing while standing exposed to moving traffic, the officer prudently may prefer to ask the driver of the vehicle to step out of the car and off onto the shoulder of the road where the inquiry may be pursued with greater safety to both."

 

Vehicle Searches

Brendlin v California
06-8120 (June 18 2007)
(Passengers have Standing in Challenging Constitutionality of Traffic Stops)
"When police make a traffic stop, a passenger in the car, like the driver, is seized for Fourth Amendment purposes and so may challenge the stop's constitutionality."
Findlaw
Illinois v Caballes
03-923 (2005)
(Dog sniff conducted during lawful traffic stop that reveals no information other than the location of a substance that no individual has any right to possess does not violate the Fourth Amendment)
Findlaw
?
(Nov 28 2000)
(Probable Cause Required for Vehicle Searches at Highway Checkpoint with Primary Purpose of Detecting Illegal Activity)
United States v Ross
456 US –; 72 L Ed 2d 572; 102 S Ct 2157 (1982)
(Warrantless Search of Vehicle)
Carroll v United States
267 US 132 (1925)
(Warrantless Search of Vehicle)

 

Driver Licensing

Dueprocess' Driver Licensing vs. the Right to Travel
dueprocess.net/old/driver%20licensing%20vs_%20the%20right%20to%20travel.htm

 

Self Incrimination

Also see 5th Amendment

United States v Williams
754 F2d 672 (CTA6 1985)
(Time Limits on Detainment without Arrest or Seizure of Person)
Kastigar v. United States
406 US 441 (1972)
(Use Immunity can Override Self-Incrimination Privilege Claim)
Marchetti v United States
390 US 39; 88 S Ct 697; 19 L Ed 2d 889 (1968)
Katz v United States
389 US 347; 88 S Ct 507; 19 L Ed 2d 576 (1967)
Schmerber v California
384 US 757; 86 S Ct 1826; 16 L Ed 2d 908 (1966)
Miranda v Arizona
384 US 436; 86 S Ct 1602; 16 L Ed 2d 694 (1966)
Escobedo v Illinois
378 US 478; 84 S Ct 1758; 12 L Ed 2d 977 (1964)
Murphy v Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor
378 US 52; 84 S Ct 1594; 12 L Ed 2d 678 (1964)
Malloy v Hogan
378 US 1; 84 S Ct 1489; 12 L Ed 2d 653 (1964)
Ullmann v United States
350 US 422; 76 S Ct 497; 100 L Ed 511 (1956)
Adamson v California
332 US 46; 67 S Ct 1672; 91 L Ed 1903 (1947)
Chambers v Florida
309 US 227; 84 L Ed 716; 60 S Ct 472 (1940)
Olmstead v United States
277 US 438; S Ct 564; 72 L Ed 944 (1928)

 

Vehicle Licensing