When a driver is stopped by police, he or she may automatically begin to get nervous, as he or she could be facing a speeding ticket or worse. Passengers also may wonder about their legal rights. Police can wield a lot of power and may act in such a manner so as to intimidate both Louisiana drivers and passengers, infringing on their legal rights. Therefore, it may be helpful for Louisianans riding as passengers to be aware of their rights in the event that a vehicle they are in is subjected to a traffic stop.
Typically, passengers are free to leave when the police have stopped a driver for a suspected moving violation. However, if the police become suspicious of a passenger during a stop, whether for a suspected drug crime or other offense, the situation may become more complex.
If police assert that they have probable cause of drug possession or another offense, they may attempt to search a passenger or refuse to let a passenger leave. A passenger may determine if he or she is being detained by simply asking an officer if he or she can leave. If the police are not detaining a passenger, that passenger is free to go. On the other hand, if police indicate that a passenger is not free to go, he or she may refuse to answer questions without an attorney present, and he or she can refuse any requested search request.
One common police tactic is for officers to separate a driver from the passengers in a vehicle. With potentially differing stories, police may try to use this information to support a finding of probable cause.
For Louisiana residents who have been arrested or criminally charged following a traffic stop in which they were merely passengers in a vehicle, it may be wise to seek legal counsel. By talking with a legal professional, an individual may be able to learn more about his or her legal rights, if they were infringed upon, and develop a defense strategy that works for him or her.
Source: Flex Your Rights, "What are the rights of passengers during a traffic stop?" accessed April 1, 2016