Interviewer: How about if you’re a passenger in a vehicle? Do you have the same protections against search and seizure?
Kevin: An officer can ask a passenger to get out of the vehicle in an investigatory detention. The officer can’t just search a passenger for no reason. If there’s some suspicion of the person being armed and dangerous, an officer can do a frisk.
Likewise, if the driver’s arrested for a DUI, the passenger can’t just be arrested. The police can just leave the passenger at roadside and drive away. That usually doesn’t happen. Typically, the police officer will offer a ride or try to get that passenger a ride home.
Usually, I will see passengers request a ride to the police station, so they can call for a ride there. In those scenarios, police officers will sometimes frisk a passenger before he lets them enter the vehicle.
Is it Justifiable to Search a Passenger Before Allowing Them Inside the Police Car?
The question arises concerning if a police officer has the right to just do a general frisk before giving a ride to the passenger. My belief is that you absolutely don’t have that right to frisk a passenger who’s not under arrest or suspicion of any type of crime.
Passengers in a DUI Stop May Refuse a Search
Interviewer: What if a person says, “I don’t give you the right to search me or frisk me.”
Kevin: The officer, at that point, shouldn’t proceed. However, the officer can just say, “Fine, I’m not going to give you ride back to the station.” The officer doesn’t really have an obligation to drive somebody to a particular place after the arrest of the DUI driver.
Interviewer: What if it would create a danger or harm to a person to leave them where they are?
Kevin: That’s a good question, but, as far as I know, there is no legal obligation that the officer has for getting the person into a safe area. Of course, if some harm befalls the passenger who’s left on the side of a highway, then I imagine a civil suit can be brought against the police department