In this archive episode, Dennis explains some case laws and tactics to apply with passengers in vehicles. Recorded on 03/24/2018.

State of NJ v. Brian L Smith 1994 https://law.justia.com/…/supreme…/1994/a-28-93-opn.html

HELD: The State Trooper’s order to the passenger, Geraldine Muhammad, to step out of the car stopped for a routine traffic violation, and the officer’s pat-down of that passenger were reasonable, and hence, permissible under the Fourth Amendment of the Federal Constitution and Article I, Paragraph 7 of the New Jersey Constitution. Therefore, the trial court properly denied the motion to suppress the cocaine and drug paraphernalia found incident to arrest.

1. In determining whether Trooper Gacina’s order to the passenger, Muhammad, to get out of the car was reasonable, the Court is guided by the seminal case, Pennsylvania v. Mimms. In Mimms, the U.S. Supreme Court balanced the driver’s interest in privacy against the State’s interest in protecting its police officers. The Court concluded that the State’s interest in the safety of its officers far outweighed the driver’s interest in not being made routinely to step out of a car after it has been stopped for a traffic violation. The Court held that the order to the driver to step out of the vehicle was reasonable and thus permissible under the Fourth Amendment. (pp. 8-10)

2. Mimms, as applied to drivers, satisfies the New Jersey Constitution. Here, the Court decides whether and under what conditions Mimms should be extended to passengers. The touchstone of the Court’s analysis is the reasonableness, under all circumstances, of the particular governmental invasion of a citizen’s personal security. (pp. 10-16)

3. Although the State’s interest in safety remains the same whether the driver or the passenger is involved, requiring a passenger to step from the vehicle in the course of a routine traffic stop represents a greater intrusion on the passenger’s liberty than it does on a driver’s liberty. In applying the Mimms balancing test to passengers, the Court concludes that the Mimms per se rule should not be applied automatically to passengers. There will be instances, however, in which police officers, with less than a reasonable suspicion that a passenger is engaged in criminal activity or is armed or dangerous, may reasonably order a passenger to step out of the car. (pp. 16-20)

4. To support an order to a passenger to step out of a vehicle stopped for a traffic violation, the officer must point to some fact or facts in the totality of the circumstances that would create in a police officer a heightened awareness of danger that would warrant an objectively reasonable officer in securing the scene in a more effective manner by ordering the passenger to step out of the car. To justify a pat-down of an occupant who has stepped out of a vehicle, the officer must find specific articulable facts to demonstrate that a reasonably prudent person under the circumstances would be warranted in the belief that his or her safety or that of others was in danger. (pp. 20-22)

5. In this case, Trooper Gacina’s order was objectively reasonable. The unusual movements of the passengers in the car, the early morning hour, and a largely deserted Turnpike are facts that warrant proceeding with extra caution in handling the occupants of the vehicle. Moreover, the pat-down of Muhammad was valid. The premature announcement of Officer’s Gacina’s intent to perform a pat-down does not debilitate the officer so that he will not later be able to perform a pat-down should sufficient facts come to light. Muhammad’s actions after she stepped from the vehicle, when considered in the totality of the circumstances, were sufficient to support a reasonable, articulable suspicion that she was armed and dangerous. (pp. 22-26)

Also see State v Bacome https://law.justia.com/…/supreme-court/2017/a-9-15.html

Also see State v. Nittolo 1984 https://law.justia.com/…/1984/194-n-j-super-344-0.html