Maryland v. Wilson, 519 U.S. 408, 16 (1997)

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

Kennedy, J., dissenting

can be ordered to remain there for a reasonable time while the police conduct their business.)

The requisite showing for commanding passengers to exit need be no more than the existence of any circumstance justifying the order in the interests of the officer's safety or to facilitate a lawful search or investigation. As we have acknowledged for decades, special latitude is given to the police in effecting searches and seizures involving vehicles and their occupants. See, e. g., Chambers v. Maroney, 399 U. S. 42 (1970); New York v. Class, 475 U. S. 106 (1986); New York v. Belton, 453 U. S. 454 (1981). Just last Term we adhered to a rule permitting vehicle stops if there is some objective indication that a violation has been committed, regardless of the officer's real motives. See Whren v. United States, 517 U. S. 806 (1996). We could discern no other, workable rule. Even so, we insisted on a reasoned explanation for the stop.

The practical effect of our holding in Whren, of course, is to allow the police to stop vehicles in almost countless circumstances. When Whren is coupled with today's holding, the Court puts tens of millions of passengers at risk of arbitrary control by the police. If the command to exit were to become commonplace, the Constitution would be diminished in a most public way. As the standards suggested in dissent are adequate to protect the safety of the police, we ought not to suffer so great a loss.

Since a myriad of circumstances will give a cautious officer reasonable grounds for commanding passengers to leave the vehicle, it might be thought the rule the Court adopts today will be little different in its operation than the rule offered in dissent. It does no disservice to police officers, however, to insist upon exercise of reasoned judgment. Adherence to neutral principles is the very premise of the rule of law the police themselves defend with such courage and dedication.

Most officers, it might be said, will exercise their new power with discretion and restraint; and no doubt this often


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