Maryland v. Wilson, 519 U.S. 408, 9 (1997)

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Stevens, J., dissenting

fication for this officer's order commanding the passengers to get out of this vehicle.1 But the Court's ruling goes much further. It applies equally to traffic stops in which there is not even a scintilla of evidence of any potential risk to the police officer. In those cases, I firmly believe that the Fourth Amendment prohibits routine and arbitrary seizures of obviously innocent citizens.


The majority suggests that the personal liberty interest at stake here, which is admittedly "stronger" than that at issue in Mimms, is outweighed by the need to ensure officer safety. Ante, at 413, 414-415. The Court correctly observes that "traffic stops may be dangerous encounters." Ante, at 413. The magnitude of the danger to police officers is reflected in the statistic that, in 1994 alone, "there were 5,762 officer assaults and 11 officers killed during traffic pursuits and stops." Ibid. There is, unquestionably, a strong public interest in minimizing the number of such assaults and fatalities. The Court's statistics, however, provide no support for the conclusion that its ruling will have any such effect.

Those statistics do not tell us how many of the incidents involved passengers. Assuming that many of the assaults were committed by passengers, we do not know how many occurred after the passenger got out of the vehicle, how many took place while the passenger remained in the vehicle, or indeed, whether any of them could have been prevented

1 The Maryland Court of Special Appeals held, inter alia, that the State had not properly preserved this claim during the suppression hearing. See App. to Pet. for Cert. 4a. The State similarly fails to press the point here. Pet. for Cert. 4, n. 1; Brief for Petitioner 4, n. 1. The issue is therefore not before us, and I am not free to concur in the Court's judgment on this alternative ground. See Caldwell v. Mississippi, 472 U. S. 320, 327 (1985); this Court's Rule 14.1(a).

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