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What Should I Do If a Santa Barbara, California Police Officer Tells Me to Get Out of My Car During a Traffic Stop?
If you’re pulled over by a Santa Barbara police officer, they can tell you to get out of your car without violating your constitutional rights. Whether or not you believe the stop was justified or lawful, you are generally not within your rights to refuse a police officer’s order to get out of your vehicle.
During the tragic July 2015 incident that ultimately led to the death of Sandra Bland in a Texas jail, the officer who pulled Bland over orders her to exit her vehicle after she declined the officer’s request to put out her cigarette. When Bland refused to get out of the car, the officer forcibly pulled her out.
Was Bland within her rights to refuse to get out of her car? The legitimacy of the stop notwithstanding, she probably was not.
The United State Supreme Court has held that police officers can order drivers to get out of their vehicles during lawful traffic stops. In the case of Pennsylvania v. Mimms, the Court ruled that:
“[O]nce a motor vehicle has been lawfully detained for a traffic violation, the police officers may order the driver to get out of the vehicle without violating the Fourth Amendment’s proscription of unreasonable searches and seizures.”
Pennsylvania v. Mimms, 434 U.S. 106 (1977)
It’s not just the driver who can be ordered to get out of the car during a traffic stop. In a later decision, the Supreme Court held that “an officer making a traffic stop may order passengers to get out of the car pending completion of the stop.” Maryland v. Wilson, 519 U.S. 408 (1997).
While it seems fairly clear that you should comply with a Santa Barbara police officer’s order to get out of your car during a traffic stop, the same cannot be said about an officer’s request to search your vehicle. Police may only legally search your vehicle under certain circumstances.
If police engage in an unconstitutional search, you can move to suppress the admission of any incriminating evidence that they find as a result of the search. However, if you consent to a search, you throw those defenses out the window. Never consent to a search of your vehicle.
A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.