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Name: People v. Brendlin
Case #: S123133
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 06/29/2006
Subsequent History: cert granted 1/19/2007, #06-8120

A passenger in a vehicle is not seized when a police officer initiates a traffic stop absent additional circumstances that would indicate to a reasonable person that he or she was the subject of the officer’s investigation or show of authority. Defendant was the passenger in a car which was stopped for a investigation of a vehicle code violation. The officer recognized defendant and asked him to identify himself. When defendant gave a false name, the officer ran a warrant check which showed defendant was parolee at large. Defendant was arrested and a search of his person, the driver, and the car revealed contraband. At the hearing on defendant’s motion to suppress, the court ruled defendant had not been seized within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment until he was ordered out at gun point. The Supreme Court agreed. A seizure only occurs when the police seek to restrain a person’s liberty either by force or show of authority, not whenever freedom of movement is curtailed. Unlike the driver who is required to remain at the scene until the officer completes his investigation, a passenger may choose to wait until the investigation is complete or he is free to ignore the police presence and go about his business (even if it may be unsafe to get out of the car).