Police Officers can order drivers to exit their vehicle during a DUI stop.
Most traffic stops go off without a hitch. You may get a ticket for whatever it was you were doing wrong, like speeding, but then you’re back on your way after a few minutes, and possibly a few hundred dollars later.
However, in the event an officer asks you to step out of the car, you need to know your rights. Can an officer ask you to get out of the vehicle, and do you have to comply? If you do exit the vehicle, what other rights do you have to protect yourself against searches, questions, and field sobriety tests?
History of Case Law
Pennsylvania vs. Mimms took place when Philadelphia police officers stopped a car for expired plates and asked the driver, Harry Mimms, to exit the vehicle. They noticed a suspicious bulge in his jacket and proceeded to search the vehicle, where they found a handgun.
Mimms claimed the police violated his fourth amendment rights, citing an unreasonable search and seizure. He was originally unsuccessful in this endeavor, but later the Supreme Court ruled that there was no probable cause to search the vehicle and reversed the conviction.
The leading case in Virginia is McCain v. Commonwealth (2008). Here the Defendant passenger was asked to exit the vehicle, along with the driver during a valid traffic stop. During the interaction, McCain was frisked by the officer and drugs were found on his person. He was charged and convicted of possession of drugs and a firearm. The convictions were overturned on appeal despite the valid order to exit the vehicle, there was no reasonable suspicion to frisk McCain.
Getting Out of Your Car
While the Supreme Court ruled that there was no probable cause for searching the car, they also ruled it legal for police to ask a driver or any passenger to get out of the vehicle if they feel they are in immediate danger. This was the case with Mimms because the bulge looked like it posed a threat.
The short answer is, yes, the police can ask you to step out of the car, and yes, you have to comply. But after that, you should know how to protect yourself against other unwarranted requests. They cannot make you perform a field sobriety test if they suspect you of a DUI, they can’t search your car, and you do not have to answer any incriminating questions.
The police can search your car after they ask you to step out if they can produce a justification for the search based on officer safety or if your car needs to be inventoried and towed from the scene. At your next traffic stop, no matter what you are pulled over for, you need to do everything in your power to protect your rights beyond being asked to step out of the car.
Record every interaction you have with the police. A dash cam is a handy tool to have in these situations; it prevents you from having to remember every detail of the traffic stop to dictate to your attorney later.
If you feel like you’ve been the victim of an unlawful traffic stop, you should consult with an experienced DUI defense attorney to get a better idea of whether or not you have grounds for a lawsuit. They can determine if your constitutional rights have been violated or if you may be dealing with a wrongful conviction.
Just remember: Yes, you do have to get out of the car, but you don’t have to do much else without an attorney by your side.
Call the Johnson Law Firm to speak with an Experienced DUI Attorney
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