Do I have to get out of my car for the Police? | Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC

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Do I have to get out of my car for the Police?

Are They Violating Your Rights?

Knowing your rights in this day and age is extremely important while interacting with a Pittsburg police officer or other law enforcement agent in the state of Pennsylvania. Let’s say, you forgot to turn your blinker on before switching lanes. A police officer pulls you over, and he orders you to step out of the vehicle. Is that violating your rights?

In Layman’s terms, no. You are not required to comply with all of the requests and demands made by a police officer, but you must comply when they order you to step out of the vehicle.

A police officer is not violating your rights by ordering you to step out of the vehicle, and if you refuse to follow this order you can be arrested for disobeying a lawful order.

Takeaways

  • Ordering you to step out of the vehicle is not a violation of your rights
  • You must comply when ordered to exit the vehicle

Policewoman starting search of man's car

Table of Contents

What is the law?
Ask or order?
Why would they ask you to step out?
Can they search me?
Should I step out?
FAQ
Contact us

What is the law in Pennsylvania?

A Pennsylvania police officer only has the authority to order you out of the vehicle after they have stopped you for a traffic violation. A Pittsburgh police officer cannot stop the driver of a vehicle without probable cause or reasonable suspicion (swerving, not using your blinker, exceeding the speed limit, etc). After the officer makes the stop, they are able to order you out of the vehicle. They do not need a second reason of suspicion or probable cause to order you to exit the vehicle after they have stopped you for the initial traffic infraction.

The Supreme Court decided that a police officer has the authority to order the driver outside of the vehicle at their discretion after the Pennsylvania vs Mimms, 434 US 106 case. Harry Mimms was ordered to exit his vehicle after being stopped by two Philadelphia police officers in 1977. When Mr. Mimms exited the vehicle the officers noticed a bulge in his jacket and quickly discovered it was a .38 revolver. Mr. Mimms was charged with unlawfully carrying a firearm and a charge for the concealed deadly weapon. Mr. Mimms said that it was a violation of his rights to step out of the vehicle. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that ordering a person out of the car is, “a reasonable and minimal intrusion of his freedoms,” Essentially ruling that it is lawful for a Pennsylvania police officer to order you to exit the vehicle. In 1997, the Maryland vs Wilson, 519 US 408 gave the authority to order the passengers out of the vehicle as well.

Takeaways:

  • If you refuse to follow this order, you will be arrested for disobeying a lawful order.
  • This is applicable to any police officer in the United States, not just those in Pittsburgh.
  • Exiting the vehicle and being patted down is not a violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Ask or Order?

A police officer may say something like “Do you mind stepping out of the vehicle?” and it is legal for you to say, “No, thank you,” because they ASKED you versus ORDERING you. If they say, “I need you to step out of the vehicle.” or “Please, step out of the vehicle,” you must comply as this is a lawful order given by a police officer. It is not a question. Most of the time they will be polite and ask, and then give an order for you to exit the vehicle. Once they order you to exit the vehicle, you must comply.

Takeaways:

  • You do not have to exit the vehicle when ASKED if you would like to step out.
  • You have to exit the vehicle when ORDERED to step out.

Why would they order you to step out of the vehicle?

There are different reasons a cop may order you to step outside of the vehicle. Many of them are for safety reasons, and some for investigative purposes. If they see one or both of your shoulders dipping as they walk up to the vehicle they may assume you are trying to hide something. A police officer will want to know what you were hiding and may order you to step out of the vehicle so they can look into your vehicle for probable cause to search. They also may order you to step out of the vehicle if you have any firearms inside. This is to keep you away from the weapons and keep the officers safe. If they suspect you of driving under the influence they might order you to step out of the vehicle to look for signs of intoxication. When there are passengers present, they might order one of you to exit the vehicle so they can hear each individual’s statement without being clouded by the other person’s memory or opinions.

Takeaways:

  • A police officer may order you to step out of the vehicle for their safety.
  • A police officer may order you to step out of the vehicle to look for signs of intoxication.
  • A police officer may order you to step out of the vehicle to conduct their investigation properly.

Can they search my person, passengers, and vehicle?

A Pittsburgh police officer can conduct an over the clothing “pat down” of your person and passengers after you have stepped out of the vehicle. This is a safety procedure to ensure you have no weapons on your person while interacting with the police officer.

However, they cannot search:

  • Your vehicle
  • Your possessions or belongings
  • Your passengers possessions or belongings

Should you get out of the vehicle?

Yes, you should immediately comply and remove yourself from the vehicle. The officers will direct you to stand in a safe place while they ask further questions, or search your vehicle if they have probable cause or you have consented to a search. If you are arrested for not complying, or feel your rights have been violated we recommend contacting one of our attorneys immediately.

Penalties

If you do not comply, you will be arrested and charged with a misdemeanor. This charge can come with up to:

  • 60 days in jail
  • Fine up to $500
  • Up to 6 months probation.

FAQs

Am I required to get out of the vehicle when a police officer orders me to in Pittsburgh?

Yes. You are required to exit the vehicle when ordered to do so by a police officer in Pittsburgh. If you do not, you will be arrested and charged with disobeying a lawful order.

Can a Pittsburgh police officer search the passengers of my vehicle after I exit the vehicle?<

No. A Pittsburgh police officer cannot search your vehicle immediately upon exiting. They must have reasonable cause or suspicion. IE, seeing a baggie of white powder, open container of alcohol, not notifying the officer of a visible weapon, etc.

Does exiting the vehicle and being patted down violate my 4th Amendment right?<

No. Pennsylvania vs Mimms concluded that being ordered to step out of the vehicle and being patted down is not a violation of the 4th Amendment.

WHY CHOOSE WORGUL, SARNA & NESS AS YOUR PITTSBURGH LAWYERS

Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC is a Board Certified criminal defense firm focusing on DUI defense. We understand what it takes to get the best possible outcome for those criminal charges.

In some situations, this could mean successfully negotiating a plea to a lesser charge. Other times, our experienced trial lawyers fight in the courtroom to defend the allegations against you.

A Pittsburgh criminal defense lawyer gives you open and honest information. We provide a realistic potential outcome of your case. Our legal team appreciates what is at stake for you if convicted, and we relentlessly pursue the best possible resolution.