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Federal Appeals Court: Not Need For Passenger ID In Traffic Stop-Police cannot demand ID from passengers during a traffic stop without reasonable suspicion of a crime

Passengers do not need to hand over their identification during traffic stops, the Ninth Circuit US Court of Appeals on Friday. Non-drivers only need to show their papers if police have a specific reason to believe they are involved in a crime.

The appellate court reversed its previous rulings on the matter after considering the circumstances of a traffic stop that took place in Arizona on February 9, 2016. That morning, tribal police officer Clinton Baker stopped a car traveling near the Pascua Yaqui Indian reservation for allegedly exceeding the speed limit by 11 MPH. The driver handed over his driver’s license.

The officer then said he smelled alcohol and believed the two women in the backseat might be under 18, in violation of underage drinking laws and the reservation curfew. They were not — one was 21, the other 19. The front seat passenger, Alfredo Enos Landeros, was 23 and did not look underage, but the officer demanded his identification anyway. Landeros refused. He was ordered out of the car and arrested for failure to identify himself and for an open beer can the officer saw on the floor of the car.

Landeros was searched and six handgun cartridges were found in his pocket. Because he was a convicted felon, he was sentenced to 405 days in prison and three years on probation. He appealed on the grounds that the evidence against him was the fruit of an unconstitutional search. The appellate judges agreed with him, noting the US Supreme Court ruling in Rodriguez v. US (view ruling) prohibits police from prolonging a traffic stop by asking unrelated questions.

“Applying Rodriguez, we shall assume that Officer Baker was permitted to prolong the initially lawful stop to ask the two women for identification, because he had reasonable suspicion they were underage,” Judge Marsha S. Berzon wrote for the panel. “But the several minutes of additional questioning to ascertain Landeros’s identity was permissible only if it was part of the stop’s ‘mission’ or supported by independent reasonable suspicion…. A demand for a passenger’s identification is not part of the mission of a traffic stop.”

Because Landeros was obviously not underage, the officer had no independent reason to ask for his identification. Under Arizona law, the officer needed reasonable suspicion that he had committed a crime before ordering him to identify himself.

A copy of the decision is available in a 100k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File US v. Landeros (US Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit, 1/10/2019)

This article first appeared at The Newspaper.