Can a passenger in a pulled over car be searched?

UPDATED: May 9, 2009

Advertiser Disclosure

It’s all about you. We want to help you make the right legal decisions.

We strive to help you make confident insurance and legal decisions. Finding trusted and reliable insurance quotes and legal advice should be easy. This doesn’t influence our content. Our opinions are our own.

UPDATED: May 9, 2009Fact Checked

Get Legal Help Today

Compare Quotes From Top Companies and Save

secured lock Secured with SHA-256 Encryption

Can a passenger in a pulled over car be searched?

My 19 year old son was in a car with his friend who was pulled over because his license plate tail light was out (it wasn’t & the driver is taking it to court). The kids had not been drinking (were smoking cigarettes) and the officer acknowledged that to me. When he searched my son’s pockets he found a baggie with marijuana residue in it (the cop said he could have disposed of it because there wasn’t enough to use) and proceeded to arrest my son for possession. Was this a legal search? The police officer said to me “odds are if you have kids in a car at midnight they’re up to something.”

Asked on May 9, 2009 under Criminal Law, Michigan


MD, Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 13 years ago | Contributor

The question is can a passenger in a pulled over car be searched? Absolutely, for a number of reasons, including for safety of the officer based on reasonable articulable suspicion, for probable cause based on what the officer saw or witnessed.

Officer had every right to search -- sounds like reasonable suspicion.  The better question is: are you concerned your 19 year old adult son had marijuana on his person? Maybe deal with this issue before you deal with his possession issue.  Don't cover it up, make him own up to his mistake.

However, at the end of the day, your son should hire a criminal defense attorney (he probably has a right to a public defender but better to get a private counsel) to see if he can get the charge dropped (i.e., hope he didn't have any other priors).

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

Get Legal Help Today

Find the right lawyer for your legal issue.

secured lock Secured with SHA-256 Encryption