Is it legal for the police to make a driver stopped for a simple traffic violation exit the car and submit to a search?

What about any passengers in the same situation?

Asked on November 6, 2012 under Criminal Law, New Jersey


B.H.F., Member, Texas State Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

Simple traffic stops often result in vehicle searches... however, police officers do not have an automatic right to search your vehicle.  Instead, the officer must be able to articulate some justifiable reason for the search of the vehicle.  For example, if the officer sees a driver making furtive movements in the car and they also smell the odor of marijuana coming from inside the vehicle, then the combination of factors would justify a search-- regardless of the driver or any passenger's consent.  If the officer can not give a valid reason for suspecting criminal activity or the need to excercising caution related to officer safety, then no, the officer cannot require a driver or passenger to be subjected to a search. 

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