Posted by: bridget | 18 June 2007

Passengers, Drugs, and Securities

The Supreme Court ruled today (yesterday for y’all on the east coast) that passengers have the same rights as drivers to challenge the legality of a traffic stop that results in an arrest.  It also ruled that federal securities law preempts class action lawsuits against investment banks.

In Brendlin v. California, the state argued that a passenger is not “seized” in the same manner in which a driver is seized during a traffic stop; therefore, he lacks the same right to protest a stop.  The effect of such a decision would be that a passenger could be detained without constitutional protection, while a driver would have the ability to protest a stop.  (The police could extend this logic: they would be able to pull over a car full of people, let the driver go, and haul all of the passengers down to the police station.)  One can hardly believe that the Framers forgot to put a little asterisk beside the Fourth Amendment, with a footnote that says, “Does not apply to passengers of horse-drawn carriages.” A person’s location in a car should hardly be the trigger for constitutional protection.


  1. On a strange non parallel universe called Massachusetts…The SJC recently ruled that the police were right in stopping and frisking a pedestrian. Probable cause ? “He had a strange gait and was looking at us”.Full disclosure: turns out the individual had a concealed weapon on him. “Cop” instinct and profiling does work.I’m just curious though is that good law ?

  2. You might want to check the application of this case to the Franconia shooting tragedy.

    Make sure to click the links because they all tell one hell of a story.

    And here is how the State reacted to our cameras:


  3. In2theFray,

    While I have every respect for police intuition, it’s not good law (or shouldn’t be – but I seem to remember a S. Ct. decision that said otherwise). It is extremely hard to bring Fourth Amendment cases when you are actually doing something wrong: the judges really want to side with the police, who were actually correct. More importantly, if the Fourth Amendment claim stands, all evidence resulting from that claim will be suppressed. The problem is that when innocent people bring Fourth Amendment claims, there is a lot of bad precedent.


    Thanks – I looked at the links and your posts. Nothing wrong with a little shameless self-promotion…. ;)

  4. Hell, even if you aren’t doing anything wrong, probable cause is pretty much whatever the cop testifies to under oath. Of course, cops lie ALL THE TIME. All they have to do is rattle off a standard line: “He clipped the curb;” “there was a bulge in his jacket”, etc.–whether it’s true or not. The judges know it, too.
    It’s just too much trouble–and causes too much unpleasantness between the court and cops—for judges to uphold 4th Amendment standards. They get away with it because very few defendants can afford to pursue Constitutional appeals. Sad but true.

  5. Lewd,
    I was meaning to edit my post to write about that. It’s really incredible when a Fourth Amendment claim stands, especially with traffic stops. Look for edits in a few.
    <blockquote>It’s just too much trouble–and causes too much unpleasantness between the court and cops—</blockquote>
    Well, thing is, we’re supposed to have a triparte system of government so that the judges can independently determine the merits of each claim. If they have trouble working together, well, that’s a personal problem.

  6. classica

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