Thursday, August 18, 2005

US v. Williams

No. 04-10213 (8-16-05). Get out of the car! Get in the car! What's a suspect to do when the police are ordering him about and he just wants to comply, while protecting his 4th amendment rights? Well, whatever you do, when you throw the weapon, make sure it lands softly. Here, the police pull over a car. Oh yes, the reason of course the dangerous "light out above the license plate". The driver was arrested for failing to have a license or identification. In the meantime, the passenger (Williams) got out to stretch his legs. The officer ordered him back into the car. She then heard a "thud" that later looking revealed to be a revolver six feet away from the car nestled on "recently fallen pine needles" (nice touch). The defendant argues that ordering him back into the car was a seizure and a violation of his 4th amendment rights. "Not so" said the 9th. If the offcier can order you out for his or her safety, she can also order you back in. The "in or out" is permissible under Wilson, 519 US at 413-14. Other circuits have held that officers can order passengers to remain inside cars and no unreasonable seizures occurred. The intrusion and time is minimal and the officer was maintaining the status quo. There is also the safety issue for the officer. The 9th sidestepped the gov't's "lack of standing" issue because the gun was abandoned by being tossed. The 9th passed on the opportunity to say that he obviously has standing even while seated.


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