Maryland v. Wilson, 519 U.S. 408, 5 (1997)

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Opinion of the Court

878 (1975)). On the public interest side of the balance, we noted that the State "freely concede[d]" that there had been nothing unusual or suspicious to justify ordering Mimms out of the car, but that it was the officer's "practice to order all drivers [stopped in traffic stops] out of their vehicles as a matter of course" as a "precautionary measure" to protect the officer's safety. 434 U. S., at 109-110. We thought it "too plain for argument" that this justification—officer safety—was "both legitimate and weighty." Id., at 110. In addition, we observed that the danger to the officer of standing by the driver's door and in the path of oncoming traffic might also be "appreciable." Id., at 111.

On the other side of the balance, we considered the intrusion into the driver's liberty occasioned by the officer's ordering him out of the car. Noting that the driver's car was already validly stopped for a traffic infraction, we deemed the additional intrusion of asking him to step outside his car "de minimis." Ibid. Accordingly, we concluded that "once a motor vehicle has been lawfully detained for a traffic violation, the police officers may order the driver to get out of the vehicle without violating the Fourth Amendment's proscription of unreasonable seizures." Id., at 111, n. 6.

Respondent urges, and the lower courts agreed, that this per se rule does not apply to Wilson because he was a passenger, not the driver. Maryland, in turn, argues that we have already implicitly decided this question by our statement in Michigan v. Long, 463 U. S. 1032 (1983), that "[i]n [Mimms], we held that police may order persons out of an automobile during a stop for a traffic violation," id., at 1047-1048 (emphasis added), and by Justice Powell's statement in Rakas v. Illinois, 439 U. S. 128 (1978), that "this Court determined in [Mimms] that passengers in automobiles have no Fourth Amendment right not to be ordered from their vehicle, once a proper stop is made," id., at 155, n. 4 (Powell, J., joined by Burger, C. J., concurring) (emphasis added). We agree with respondent that the former statement was dictum, and the

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