Case Brief Maryland v. Wilson; U.S. Supreme Court; No. 95-1268
The Baltimore County Circuit Court granted the defendant’s motion to suppress evidence based in an unreasonable search conducted by a State Trooper. The Maryland Court of Appeals affirmed the decision stating that the rule of Pennsylvania v. Mimms, 434U.S. 106, does not apply to passengers, therefore the search was unlawful. Appellate court reversed and remanded the case. The judgment of the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland was reversed by the Supreme Court with the exception of Justice Stevens and Justice Kennedy who filed a dissenting opinion.
Trooper Hughes pursues a suspicious car going over the limit on the highway; the officer activated the lights and sirens but it continued driving for more than a mile. Approaching the car, the officer noticed a passenger named Jerry Wilson acting very strange and looking very nervous. The officer asked Wilson to get out of the car, and when he did a quantity of cocaine fell on the floor. Wilson was arrested and charged with possession with intent to distribute.
Rule of Law:
Can a police officer after a traffic stop order a passenger of the car to step out and search him? Does the same rule apply for drivers and passengers? Does the rule of law in Pennsylvania v. Mimms apply also in this case?
The Court had to determine if the Mimms’s decision could apply to this case. Do the passengers in a car that was stopped have the same Fourth Amendment rights than the driver? Does the issue of police safety justify the intrusion on a passenger’s liberties? The court has to determine if the passenger in a car that was lawfully stopped can be seized, without having any evidence that the passenger poses a threat to the officer or that he or she has committed a crime.