Orders to Exit Vehicles: Passengers

The New Jersey Supreme Court considered whether the Mimms rule applied to passengers in New Jersey as well in State v. Smith, 134 N.J. 599 (1994). The Court found that ordering a passenger out of a vehicle is different from ordering a driver to get out of the vehicle because the passenger has not engaged in the culpable conduct that resulted in the vehicle stop. The court found that an order to exit a vehicle during the course of a routine motor vehicle stop constitutes a greater intrusion on the passenger’s liberty than on the driver’s. Because the passenger has not normally engaged in an obvious violation of the law, he or she has a legitimate expectation that no further inconvenience will occur other than the delay of a lawful stop of a driver. Accordingly, the court recognized a distinction between the privacy expectations of passengers and drivers and found that the passenger’s privacy interest is greater than that of the driver. The Court ruled that in order for an officer to require a passenger to exit a motor vehicle during a lawful stop, the officer must be able to identify specific and articulable facts that would warrant heightened caution to justify ordering passengers out of a vehicle detained for a traffic stop. The officer needs to establish some facts considered in the totality of the circumstances that would create a heightened awareness of danger for the officer.

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