Supreme court holds that passenger can be frisked.
Case Reference: Arizona v. Johnson
In another case testing the boundaries of Fourth Amendment jurisprudence, the Supreme Court ruled that a police officer may search a suspect during a routine traffic stop if she believes that suspect may be armed and dangerous but has no justifiable reason to believe that they are committing a crime.
After stopping a car for a routine traffic violation in April 2002, Tucson police officer Maria Trevizo said she decided to search passenger Lemon M. Johnson because he was wearing gang colors and appeared dangerous. [There are colors "reserved" for gangs? I'd better check my crayon box.]
The pat-down search produced a gun and marijuana, and Johnson was convicted in Pima County Superior Court. [There was a time when neither of these items were "ill-eagle". We are fast approaching the day when both will be.]
Johnson appealed, arguing that evidence against him should have been suppressed because the search was unconstitutional. The Arizona Court of Appeals agreed and overruled the lower court.
The Arizona Supreme Court declined to review the case.
The state urged the Supreme Court to review the case, contending that an officer who fears for his or her safety is justified in searching someone believed to be armed and dangerous even if the suspect isn’t committing a crime.
On June 23, the justices accepted the case for review. They heard oral arguments during the fall term.
On Jan. 26, a unanimous court overturned the lower court ruling, which found for the defendant.
“To justify a patdown of the driver or a passenger during a traffic stop… just as in the case of a pedestrian reasonably suspected of criminal activity [like ... walking], the police must harbor [or at least claim to] reasonable suspicion that the person subjected to the frisk is armed and dangerous,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for the court.
Question presented: Whether, in the context of a vehicular stop for a minor traffic infraction, an officer may conduct a pat-down search of a passenger when the officer has an articulable basis to believe the passenger might be armed and presently dangerous, but had no reasonable grounds to believe that the passenger is committing, or has committed, a criminal offense. ["might be", as in "is it humanly possible", as in "all of us".]
No word yet on whether it is lawful to shoot someone in the back while they are restrained on the ground, or to follow such action with confiscating any citizen's recording devices that document said event.
Hmm, while they're at it, maybe they can search your wallet and take any money they [h a r b o r reasonable suspicion to] believe is more than you should have on you. -- y'know, 'cause you 'look' poor.