Maryland v. Wilson, 519 U.S. 408, 11 (1997)

Page:   Index   Previous  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  Next



Stevens, J., dissenting

stops involve otherwise law-abiding citizens who have committed minor traffic offenses. A strong interest in arriving at a destination—to deliver a patient to a hospital, to witness a kickoff, or to get to work on time—will often explain a traffic violation without justifying it. In the aggregate, these stops amount to significant law enforcement activity.

Indeed, the number of stops in which an officer is actually at risk is dwarfed by the far greater number of routine stops. If Maryland's share of the national total is about average, the State probably experiences about 100 officer assaults each year during traffic stops and pursuits. Making the unlikely assumption that passengers are responsible for one-fourth of the total assaults, it appears that the Court's new rule would provide a potential benefit to Maryland officers in only roughly 25 stops a year.4 These stops represent a minuscule portion of the total. In Maryland alone, there are something on the order of one million traffic stops each year.5 Assuming that there are passengers in about half of the cars stopped, the majority's rule is of some possible advantage to police in only about one out of every twenty thousand traffic stops in which there is a passenger in the car. And, any benefit is extremely marginal. In the overwhelming majority of cases posing a real threat, the officer would almost

4 This figure may in fact be smaller. The majority's data aggregate assaults committed during "[t]raffic [p]ursuits and [s]tops." Federal Bureau of Investigation, Uniform Crime Reports: Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted 71 (1994). In those assaults that occur during the pursuit of a moving vehicle, it would obviously be impossible for an officer to order a passenger out of the car.

5 Maryland had well over one million nontort motor vehicle cases during a 1-year period between 1994 and 1995. Annual Report of the Maryland Judiciary 80 (1994-1995). Though the State does not maintain a count of the number of stops performed each year, this figure is probably a fair rough proxy. The bulk of these cases likely represent a traffic stop, and this total does not include those stops in which the police officer simply gave the driver an informal reprimand. I presume that these figures are representative of present circumstances.

Page:   Index   Previous  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  Next

Last modified: October 4, 2007