Richard S. Lundin
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Personal injury and family law attorney licensed to practice in Maryland and the District of Columbia


The Fourth Amendment protects you from random traffic stops (although checkpoints for drunk drivers and undocumented persons are allowed).  In order to lawfully pull you over, the police officer must have “probable cause” to believe that you’ve committed a traffic violation or “reasonable suspicion” of criminal activity.

Once you’ve been lawfully stopped, can the police order you out of the car? The answer is, “Yes.”  And, the police officer doesn’t need to give a reason.  The police can order you out of the car as a matter of course, and if the officer does so, there is no unconstitutional violation of your rights.  The Supreme Court has held that the benefit to officer safety (from assault or accidental injury) from giving the police this power outweighs the “minimal” additional intrusion on a driver’s liberty that is caused by being ordered out of the car.

And what about when you’re a passenger?  As with the driver, the police have the right to order passengers out of the car as a precautionary measure even if there is no reason to suspect that you’ve committed a crime or pose any safety risk.  For safety reasons, the Supreme Court has found it reasonable that the police officers have “unquestioned command of the situation.”

So if you find yourself lawfully pulled over for a traffic stop, be aware that the police have the right to order you out of the car as a matter of course and don't have to give a reason for doing so.  The Supreme Court has held that this is a reasonable police power and doesn’t violate your Fourth Amendment rights.

If you've been given traffic tickets or arrested for drunk driving, call now for assistance with your case.