Appeals court:Seatbelt Violation I.D. Requests Ok

In U.S. v. Fernandez No. 09-1058 April 1, 2010 the 1st circuit court of appeals ruled in a search and siezure case whether a police officer may request identifying information from passengers in a vehicle stopped for a traffic violation without particularized suspicion that the passengers pose a safety risk or are violating the law. In reviewing the facts the court stated “Appellant Lamont Fernandez conditionally pled guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm after the district court refused to suppress a gun recovered from him following a traffic stop of a car in which he was a passenger. The handgun was discovered after a police officer asked Fernandez for identification, ostensibly to issue a citation under a state seat belt law, and a computer check revealed an active warrant for his arrest.

Other circuits had concluded before a similar case of Arizona v. Johnson, 129 S. Ct. 781, 786 (2009), that officers could properly ask a passenger for identification in circumstances similar to those before us, and Johnson’s discussion of the permissible scope of a traffic stop has only strengthened such precedent. See, e.g., United States v. Diaz-Castaneda, 494 F.3d 1146, 1152 (9th Cir. 2007) (stating, in the context of a passenger inquiry, that “[t]he police may ask people who have legitimately been stopped for identification without conducting a [separate] Fourth Amendment search or seizure”) (citing Hiibel, 542 U.S. at 185); United States v. Soriano-Jarquin, 492 F.3d 495, 500 (4th Cir. 2007) (“If an officer may ‘as a matter of course’ and in the interest of personal safety order a passenger physically to exit the vehicle, he may surely take the minimally intrusive step of requesting passenger identification.”) (citing Wilson, 519 U.S. at 410); United States v. Rice, 483 F.3d 1079, 1084 (10th Cir. 2007) (“[B]ecause passengers present a risk to officer safety equal to the risk presented by the driver, an officer may ask for identification from passengers and run background checks on them as well.”) (citing Wilson, 519 U.S. at 413-414).

We therefore hold that, based on the record before us, no Fourth Amendment violation occurred. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of conviction.”


A good case that reinforced a sound legal principle, this case was an example of excellent police work. Click it or ticket folks.

Attorney Ronald A. Sellon

About Attorney Ronald A. Sellon

Ronald A. Sellon is a licensed Attorney in the state of Massachusetts and U.S. District Court, Massachusetts as well as a Sergeant with a Municipal Police Department and U.S. military Veteran. Additionally, he has taught Criminal Procedure at the Massachusetts State Police Academy in New Braintree and has written a text on Criminal Procedure for police field training officer programs. He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy, was a 2008 recipient of the Massachusetts Coalition of Police (Mass C.O.P.) Presidents award and holds a Bachelors Degree in Law Enforcement, a Masters Degree in Criminal Justice Administration, and a Juris Doctor Law Degree. Questions related to content material may be directed to
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