Even if you are just a passenger and not the driver of a car, the Utah Supreme Court recently ruled that during traffic stops, police officers can ask for identification from everyone in a vehicle and run background checks on all if they choose to, according to Fox13 Utah.
This new ruling overturns a lower court ruling issued in 2014 that involved a routine traffic stop, but the passenger was arrested for the possession of illegal drugs.
In the new Utah high court ruling, the order details how Utah Highway Patrol Trooper Jeremy Horne stopped a vehicle for an illegal lane change. A passenger, George Matthew Martinez Jr., was asked for identification. The officer ran a background check which revealed an outstanding warrant for the arrest of Martinez.
Methamphetamine was found on Martinez and he was arrested and charged with drug possession. Martinez argued at trial that the officer did not have “reasonable suspicion” to ask a passenger for his ID or run a background check. Martinez prevailed, but the Utah Attorney General appealed the decision to the Utah Supreme Court.
The Court reversed the lower court decision, declaring,
“We conclude that an officer does not violate the Fourth Amendment”by requesting
“that a passenger voluntarily provide identification and then runs a background check on that passenger without reasonable suspicion that the passenger has committed—or is about to commit—a crime?”wrote Justice John Pearce.
Although the Utah Supreme Court cited safety of police officers as its main reason for the reversal, this case could have bigger implications. It implies that officers have greater authority to request ID’s and run checks, even during minor traffic stops.
If you need help and have questions or concerns about your rights and responsibilities during a traffic stop, please contact the experienced criminal law attorneys at Spencer & Jensen, LLC at 801-566-1884 for a consultation today.