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Rights of Passengers During Traffic Stops in Ohio

Rights of Passengers During Traffic Stops in Ohio
June 21, 2020 Shannon Dawes
Divorce and dissolution under Ohio law.

Many Ohio drivers have experienced being pulled over by a law enforcement officer. While any driver can be stopped if they commit a traffic infraction or if the officer believes other criminal activity is afoot, drivers still retain certain rights. The driver must be permitted to go on their way in a timely manner if police have no other reason to detain them, for example. Or, again, a driver’s car may not be searched absent probable cause or the driver’s consent. These are rights that are well-known to most and that have been affirmed time and again in Ohio caselaw.

Passengers Have Rights as Well

Although they may only be “along for the ride,” a vehicle’s passengers also have rights when the driver of the vehicle in which they are riding is stopped. These rights often mirror the rights that the driver themselves have. For example, a passenger in a vehicle has the right:

  • To remain silent and not answer questions regarding criminal activity without your attorney present
  • To not be detained by police any longer than is necessary unless there is probable cause to do so
  • To not be searched unless the officer has probable cause to do so

These rights are independent of the driver of the vehicle. For example, suppose that you are traveling in a car and your friend is behind the wheel. Your friend gets stopped by police for speeding and consents to a search of the vehicle. Even so, you have the right not to be detained by law enforcement unless there is probable cause for the officer to do so or you consent to remaining on scene. An officer who tells you that you are not free do go without either of these conditions being met has likely violated your rights.

What Happens When a Passenger’s Rights are Violated?

Initially, there are few consequences for law enforcement who violate the rights of a passenger during a traffic stop. (The obvious exception is where police conduct is so outrageous or shocking that the passenger’s rights are clearly and intentionally violated.) However, evidence that is obtained through actions that violate a passenger’s constitutional rights may result in the suppression of evidence. For example:

  • A confession given after a passenger was unlawfully detained or detained for an unreasonable amount of time may be kept from being used in court proceedings;
  • Drugs or drug paraphernalia that is discovered during an unlawful search may be suppressed and may not be used as a basis for criminal charges against a passenger; or
  • Charges for interfering with a police investigation may be dismissed if the officer’s investigation was not supported by probable cause.

An experienced Ohio criminal defense attorney is typically able to review the charges and evidence brought against a passenger and determine if any of the evidence may be suppressed. Speaking with your lawyer as soon as possible may shorten the time needed to resolve your case or result in a more favorable disposition.

Talk with Dawes Legal, LLC about Your Case

If you were a passenger in a car who is now facing criminal charges after a traffic stop, make certain that you do not enter a plea to the charge without first checking with a knowledgeable Columbus criminal defense lawyer. Even if your rights were not violated during the stop and the charges are supported by evidence, Dawes Legal, LLC may be able to assist you in lessening the firms imposed, reducing jail sentences, or avoiding collateral consequences of convictions. Call Dawes Legal, LLC today at (614) 733-9999 and schedule an initial consultation today.