don't be so certainThat was cute and all, before Sandra Bland died after being arrested in what was so close to being a warning for a minor traffic violation.
if you say “I know my rights!”
you probably don't
Three(?) times Sandra Bland asserted her "rights." Three times she was wrong. Now she's dead. You do have to put out your cigarette as a matter of officer safety. You do have to get out of the car. During a car stop, you are being detained. The 4th amendment barely applies. This isn't my opinion. These are Court decisions regarding general concepts of officer safety -- far more pro-cop than most cops and the public realize -- that emphasize the phrase "unquestioned police command."
Ordering people out of car isn't like use of lethal force. The latter requires articulation of danger. The Court says car stops are inherently dangerous and thus gives officers the greatest amount of discretion to whatever they see fit. (In a similar way, the Court recognizes the "inherent link" between violence and the drug corner, which gives officers carte blanche to frisk almost everybody on a drug corner, no further articulation of danger required.)
The basic rule, especially in a car stop, is obey lawful orders. Period. Resistance really is futile. Force can used to ensure compliance. I'm not saying this is good. But it is established Law of the Land.
So it pains me to read a legal analysis in a respectable publication that is so patently, even dangerously, wrong.
First let's get the objective facts right. Then we can talk about the subjective issues.
Jim Harrington, director of the Texas Civil Rights Project, should know better. You gotta get this right. He is wrong:
[The cop] does not have the right to say get out of the car. He has to express some reason. "I need to search your car," or, whatever; he needs to give a reason.Wrong, wrong, wrong.
He can’t just say "get out of the car" for a traffic offense.Uh, yes, he can! What part of "precautionary measure, without reasonable suspicion" doesn't he understand?
Rarely is the Supreme Court so unambiguously clear. Best I can tell, it goes back to Pennsylvania v. Mimms (1977):
The order to get out of the car, issued after the respondent was lawfully detained, was reasonable, and thus permissible under the Fourth Amendment. The State's proffered justification for such order -- the officer's safety -- is both legitimate and weighty.Maryland v. Wilson (1997) reaffirmed and extended this to the car's passengers as well. Brendlin v. California (2007) re-affirmed again, but added some even stronger language:
[T]he only question is whether he [lawfully detained driver] shall spend that period sitting in the driver's seat of his car or standing alongside it. Not only is the insistence of the police on the latter choice not a "serious intrusion upon the sanctity of the person," but it hardly rises to the level of a "petty indignity." [quoted from Terry v. Ohio]. What is, at most, a mere inconvenience cannot prevail when balanced against legitimate concerns for the officer's safety.
[T]he police officers may order the driver to get out of the vehicle without violating the Fourth Amendment's proscription of unreasonable searches and seizures.
We held that during a lawful traffic stop an officer may order a passenger out of the car as a precautionary measure, without reasonable suspicion that the passenger poses a safety risk (driver may be ordered out of the car as a matter of course). In fashioning this rule, we invoked our earlier statement that "the risk of harm to both the police and the occupants is minimized if the officers routinely exercise unquestioned command of the situation." [quoting Michigan v. Summers] What we have said in these opinions probably reflects a societal expectation of "unquestioned [police] command."And in case you're still hoping for a loophole:
Our conclusion comports with the views of all nine Federal Courts of Appeals, and nearly every state court, to have ruled on the question.And no, cops don't have to tell you anything or explain why. Maybe they should, out of courtesy or politeness or tactics. But they don't have to. They order. You obey. So says the Supreme Court.
Tangentially, not that you asked, this is what bothers me the liberal emphasis on "procedural justice" (See Obama's Presidential Police Report). This was procedural justice. Nothing the cop did was illegal. Could have the cop acting differently? Sure. Should the cop have acting differently? In hindsight, yes. But did the cop have to act differently? No. The law was followed. And now a woman is dead. It's not moral justice.
Also, here's the most complete video:
This reminds me most of all of the Henry Louis Gates arrest. You get into a pissing contest with cops, odds are you'll lose. "Pick your battles," I tell my students. A car stop is great place to keep your mouth shut. Seriously, right or wrong, what do you hope to gain from pissing off a cop?
[My analysis of the car stop is here.]