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Monday, July 16, 2007

Brendlin v. California (US Supreme Court Rules passengers in cars have search rights)

No. 06-8120 Decided June 18, 2007

Police officers stopped a car to check its registration without reason to believe it was being operated unlawfully. One of the officers recognized petitioner Brendlin, a passenger in the car. The police verified that Brendlin was a parole violator and officers arrested Brendlin and searched him, the driver and the car finding methamphetamine paraphernalia. Brendlin was charged with possessing and manufacturing meth and moved to suppress the evidence obtained from the search of his person and the car, arguing that the officers lacked probable cause or reasonable suspicion to stop the car which made the seizure of his person unconstitutional. The unanimous opinion recognized that passengers in vehicles stopped by the police are covered by the fourth amendment and may challenge the legality of the stop if arrested.

Held: when the 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.