In most cases arising from traffic stops, focus has been on whether law enforcement officers violated the constitutional rights of the driver. A driver’s rights can be violated in many ways, including by an unlawful traffic stop without reasonable suspicion that they broke the law, a search of the car without a warrant or probable cause, or an arrest without probable cause. However, while scrutiny is often centered on an officer’s interactions with a driver, passengers in vehicles that are stopped can have their rights violated, as well.
As a passenger in a vehicle that is stopped by an officer, you have certain rights and responsibilities. First, you should be aware that an officer cannot hold you responsible for any potential unlawful actions of the person driving the vehicle. If the driver was speeding, you cannot be charged with speeding simply because you were a passenger at the time.
In addition, a police officer can demand that a driver show identification if they are suspected of violating the law. However, under many circumstances, passengers are not required to show ID when requested by an officer. The exception occurs when the officer specifically suspects the passenger committed a crime, as well. For example, if a passenger was seen throwing something out of a window (such as drug evidence), officers may be justified in requesting the passenger’s ID. The same is true if an officer requests that a passenger remains at the scene of the stop based on suspicious activity.
It is important to note that, as a passenger, you still have the rights to refuse a search of your person or belongings if requested by an officer and your expectation of privacy is different than that of a driver. You also have the right to refuse to answer questions and to remain silent under the 5th Amendment. If an arrest results, you have the right to have an attorney present just like any other case.
Call an Experienced New Jersey Criminal Defense Lawyer for Help
Whether you were a driver, a passenger, or in another situation during your police encoun
ter, you should discuss your situation with an experienced NJ criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. At the Law Offices of Leon Matchin, we can assess your case and determine whether your rights were violated in any way and identify any possible legal defenses that may be available in your case. Please do not hesitate to call us for more information today at 732-662-7658.