Maryland v. Wilson, 519 U.S. 408, 12 (1997)

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Cite as: 519 U. S. 408 (1997)

Stevens, J., dissenting

certainly have some ground to suspect danger that would justify ordering passengers out of the car.

In contrast, the potential daily burden on thousands of innocent citizens is obvious. That burden may well be "minimal" in individual cases. Ante, at 415. But countless citizens who cherish individual liberty and are offended, embarrassed, and sometimes provoked by arbitrary official commands may well consider the burden to be significant.6 In all events, the aggregation of thousands upon thousands of petty indignities has an impact on freedom that I would characterize as substantial, and which in my view clearly outweighs the evanescent safety concerns pressed by the majority.


The Court concludes today that the balance of convenience and danger that supported its holding in Mimms applies to passengers of lawfully stopped cars as well as drivers. In Mimms itself, however, the Court emphasized the fact that the intrusion into the driver's liberty at stake was "occasioned not by the initial stop of the vehicle, which was admittedly justified, but by the order to get out of the car." 434 U. S., at 111. The conclusion that "this additional intrusion can only be described as de minimis" rested on the premise that the "police have already lawfully decided that the driver shall be briefly detained." Ibid.7

6 The number of cases in which the command actually protects the officer from harm may well be a good deal smaller than the number in which a passenger is harmed by exposure to inclement weather, as well as the number in which an ill-advised command is improperly enforced. Consider, for example, the harm caused to a passenger by an inadequately trained officer after a command was issued to exit the vehicle in Board of Comm'rs of Bryan Cty. v. Brown, 67 F. 3d 1174 (CA5 1995), cert. granted, 517 U. S. 1154 (1996).

7 Dissenting in Mimms, I criticized the Court's reasoning and, indeed, predicted the result that the majority reaches today. 434 U. S., at 122-123.


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