The Supreme Court heard arguments Monday on the vexing issue of the constitutional rights of passengers in vehicles stopped by police, reports the New York Times. A key question is whether a “reasonable” passenger would feel free to open the door and leave during such a stop. That perception is a principal part of the court's test for whether a “seizure” has taken place within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures.
If a reasonable person would not feel constrained, then he or she has not been “seized” and has no basis for complaining that the police have violated the Fourth Amendment. The converse is also true: a person who reasonably feels detained by the police is entitled to challenge the validity of the police action and perhaps to keep illegally seized evidence out of court. The case was brought by a California man who was a passenger in a car stopped by police. During a search, the man was found with methamphetamine supplies.