Understanding Driver and Passenger Fourth Amendment Rights

By | July 27, 2015

Constitution_We_the_PeopleThe Fourth Amendment to the Constitution necessitates that searches and seizures be reasonable, and warrants should be based on probable cause. State actors such as the police are hence required to show probable cause before seizing a person. This is applicable to when a police is stopping a driver and the passenger. Therefore, it is unconstitutional to seize a driver or a passenger if there is no probable cause that the driver or the passenger was involved in wrongdoing during the time of the stop.

When you are in the car it is more rational that you are not completely out in public, but you are away from your home and in a plain view of the general public, police and other by-standers. Due to this fact the right of the fourth amendment is not absolute when it comes to seizing and searching cars. In various occasions, the courts have pointed out that when one is in the car there is a lack of privacy. It is due to this facts that the fourth amendment rights might not be applicable in some occasions.

The fourth amendment right to the driver and passenger during a police stop is valid when a driver is pulled over for a minor traffic infraction. The police officer will only have the right to search the car if he possess a valid search warrant, valid arrest warrant, and a belief of probable cause’ that the driver or the passenger has committed a crime. When one is arrested due to a traffic violation, the police have no mandate to search the car. The police can only search a vehicle after an arrest of a recent occupant unless the police officers have unreasonable doubt that the evidence of an offense is in the car. Contrary to this, it is a violation of the fourth amendment.

If the police find probable cause that a car is transporting illicit items such as drugs they are only required to produce a search warrant if the car is stationary. A search will be permissible without a search warrant if the car is moving. The rationale behind this is the fact that the car can drive off and evidence can be lost before the police secure a search warrant. The fourth amendment right is not therefore violated if the police have unreasonable doubt that a moving car possess illegal goods.

The fourth amendment right does not prevent any warrant less searches of personal belonging of passengers in a car that has been legally stopped. Passengers are in close proximity to the driver and can engage in joint activities that can cover evidence or items that could put police officer’s safety at risk. Therefore, the police have the mandate to order the passengers out the car. Lawmakers and courts have ensured that there are legal safeguards that law enforcement officers can only interfere with person’s fourth amendment under a particular circumstance.